Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith has told ministries to be proactive in attracting investment from Brunei Darussalam after learning that companies in the oil-rich country want to do business in Laos.
Bruneian investors are interested in exporting oil to Laos as well as operating poultry farms and growing rice for export to the kingdom.
The premier gave the advice to ministers and senior officials during talks at the Lao Embassy to Brunei as part of his official two-day visit to the country from February 16-17. The visit was made at the invitation of His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah.
Mr Thongloun told ministers and senior officials to be prepared and identify suitable locations for these projects.
Deputy Minister of Planning and Investment, Dr Kikeo Chanthaboury, who accompanied the prime minister to Brunei, told V
ientiane Times yesterday that a Bruneian oil refinery plant operator called on Mr Thongloun during the visit and confirmed their intention.
The Bruneian investors said they wanted to export crude oil from Brunei through the Vung Ang Seaport in Vietnam and build a refinery at the Lao border.
The governments of Laos and Vietnam have agreed to jointly develop the Vung Ang Seaport in Vietnam’s central Ha Tinh province, which will be a gateway to facilitate landlocked Laos’ access to sea trade routes.
“He [the prime minister] welcomed the project. It is a sound proposal. We import 100 percent of the fuel we use and if it was refined here production costs would be cheaper,” Dr Kikeo said.
Mr Thongloun suggested that the project should be brought to fruition and for the Bruneian investors to partner with Lao businesses.
He entrusted the Ministry of Industry and Commerce to facilitate the investors towards realising the project.
Data collected from 22 petroleum companies in Laos shows that as many as 1.2 billion litres of fuel were imported into Laos in 2015.
A Bruneian investor also expressed interest in operating chicken farms in Laos and exporting chicken products, an important ingredient of halal food, back to the kingdom.
The investor expressed interest some time ago and plans to visit Laos next month to explore investment possibilities.
Dr Kikeo said his ministry and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry would work together to identify a location for the proposed project, saying 50 hectares of land should be sufficient.
Bruneian investors also want to grow long grain rice in Laos for export to Brunei. This project would require about 1,000 hectares of land.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry says arable land suitable for the cultivation of rice is available in Borikhamxay province and in Sangthong district, Vientiane. If realised, the three projects of oil importing and refining, chicken farming and rice production would give considerable momentum to investment and trade cooperation between Laos and Brunei, officials said.
Bilateral investment and trade cooperation between the two countries remains low despite both being members of the Association of Southeast Asia Nations (Asean) with the Asean Free Trade Area (AFTA). However, the two countries have enjoyed growing bilateral friendly relations and cooperation.