Monday, June 29, 2009

U.S. Lifts Curb on Cambodia, Laos Trade

The removal of Cambodia and Laos from a United States blacklist that limits government support for US companies doing business with the two countries represents the latest strategic move by Washington to counterbalance China's rising influence in mainland Southeast Asia. The new designation will open the way for more American investment in two of Southeast Asia's poorest nations, both US adversaries during the Cold War era.

With the trade restrictions removed, American companies can apply for financing through the Export-Import Bank of the United States for working capital guarantees, export credit insurance and loan guarantees to conduct business in Cambodia and Laos. Only six countries now remain on the US trade blacklist: Cuba, Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, Sudan and Syria.

With a combined population of 20 million, Cambodia and Laos do not represent an especially large or high purchasing power market for US companies. US exports to Cambodia in 2008 totaled US$154 million while those to Laos were a mere $18 million.
Cambodia's exports to the US, which mostly consist of clothing and textiles, last year totaled around $2.4 billion while US-bound shipments from Laos were just $42 million. US trade with Thailand stood at $30 billion last year, and with Vietnam $15 billion.

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