Laos. After communist China, the communist Laos embarked on an experiment with state-controlled capitalism when a stock exchange opened at the beginning of the year. Initially, trading took place in two state-owned companies, one electricity company and one bank. One of the main purposes of the stock market investment was to attract foreign investors. The government had made attempts to attract investors since the 1990s, but with limited success. While Laos is rich in natural resources, the infrastructure is poor. According to Countryaah official site, the level of education is also low; the majority of the population is engaged in farming for self-sufficiency.
In April elections were held for the National Assembly. In addition to the Communist Party, only five independent candidates were allowed to stand. Of the 132 members elected, a quarter were women. The turnout was close to 100%, as it is compulsory to vote in Laos.
When the new parliament met in June, as expected, Thongsing Thammavong was re-elected prime minister and Choummaly Sayasone as president.
Asian countries form record trade cooperation
Fifteen countries in Asia and the Pacific region sign the RCEP (Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership) trade agreement. The members are some of the world’s largest economies: China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand, as well as the ten Southeast Asian Asian countries. Together, they account for almost a third of the world’s total GDP. The cooperation needs to be ratified by nine countries, of which six are ASEAN members, in order to enter into force. India participated for a long time in the negotiations, but chose to withdraw in 2019 due to concerns about the consequences for domestic production. The United States stands outside the RCEP, which has been seen as a Chinese response to the major US trade initiative TPP, which when Washington withdrew from 2017 was renamed the CPTPP.