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Premier Li’s visit to Laos yields raft of agreements

Hu Yongqi
Updated: Sep 9,2016 7:26 AM     China Daily

Premier Li Keqiang (L3) meets with Thongloun Sisoulith (R3), the prime minister of Laos, in Vientiane, the Lao capital, on Sept 8.

China and Laos signed 20 agreements on Sept 8 to promote railway, hydropower and infrastructure projects during Premier Li Keqiang’s trip to the Southeast Asian neighbor.

Under the agreements, Chinese banks will grant loans to the Laotian government to start construction of the China-Laos Railway. A groundbreaking ceremony for the project was held last year.

The two countries will work on a development plan for areas along the line that stretches 418 km from Kunming, capital of Southwest China’s Yunnan province, to Laos’ capital Vientiane.

Premier Li also said in an article published in the Laotian newspaper KPL News that China is willing to start construction of the landmark China-Laos Railway, which will probably begin by the end of this year.

Li Jiacheng, a researcher of economic transition at Liaoning University, said the China-Laos Railway will help Laos transform from a “landlocked” to “land-linked” country.

Some of the agreements were to promote cultural exchanges, improve Laotian infrastructure such as earthquake research facilities, and facilitate customs clearance process between the two countries.

Premier Li arrived on Sept 6 in Laos, which chairs the Association of Southeast Asian Nations this year and hosts all ASEAN and East Asia summits. The Premier began his official visit to Laos on Sept 8 after participating in ASEAN-related meetings.

Premier Li was warmly welcomed by his Laotian counterpart Thongloun Sisoulith at the Prime Minister’s House in downtown Vientiane. Laotian soldiers lined up to salute to the Premier while the Chinese national anthem was performed.

Thongloun said Premier Li’s official visit showcased the traditional friendship between the two countries and support and encouragement for Laos as ASEAN chairing country this year.

This year marks the 55th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between the two neighbors. China is Laos’ second-largest trading partner and the biggest source of foreign investment-total investment stood at $5.84 billion by the end of last year.

China is willing to promote cooperation in production capacity and investment, and major projects such as the railway and hydropower projects, Premier Li said when meeting with President Bounnhang Vorachitch on Sept 8.

Bounnhang said China and Laos maintain close exchanges at all levels and have made smooth progress cooperating in fields such as national defense and people-to-people exchanges.