The Lao government has set a target to increase the trade value of imports and exports to $1,746 million in 2020, even as the country is still facing a trade deficit of $193 million.

The value of exports is targeted at $6,422 million and the value of imports at $6,615 million, according to a report of the planning and investment sector, which held a meeting in Vientiane on Monday.

The main products for export are electricity, gold ore, copper and accessories made of copper, bananas, pulp and paper, frames and camera parts, beverages, clothing, electrical and electrical equipment, rubber and livestock, according to the Ministry of Industry and Commerce.

The main products for import are vehicles, besides tractors and motorcycles, electrical machinery and equipment, diesel, mechanical equipment (other than motor vehicles), steel and steel products, magnetic steel, beverages, line steel and various forms of steel, plastic and plastic products.

The countries where goods are exported to are Thailand, China, Vietnam, Germany and Switzerland, while goods are imported from Thailand, China, Vietnam, Japan and Korea.

Electricity continues to be Laos’ major revenue-generating export.

Laos currently exports electricity to Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, with Thailand being the largest importer of energy from Laos.

To reach the target export value this year, the government has set a target to generate 40,500 million kWh worth 21,008 billion kip, of which 33,234 million kWh worth 17,352 billion kip is for export.

This year, Laos had set a target to generate 33,875 million kWh, but in the first nine months of the year only 23,641 million kWh or 70 per cent of the target was met.

This year, the government had set a target to up the export value to $5,516 million and was to meet this target by the end of the year. After the first nine months the figure has touched $4,380 million or 79.4 per cent of the plan.

While the target of imports was $5,775 million, it touched $4,202 million in the first nine months.

Laos continues to experience a trade deficit as production in Laos is low and most of the products are imported into the country.

However, observers say the large trade deficit has both positive and negative connotations. The downside of the data is that it indicates that Laos is becoming a major consumer, which is not good for economic sustainability.

Currently, economic growth in Laos is based on the exploitation of natural resources.

There is a need for the government to speed up economic reforms and transform itself into a knowledge-based economy, observers said.