More information about Laos is available on the Laos Page and from other Department of State publications and other sources listed at the end of this fact sheet.
The United States established diplomatic relations with Laos in 1950, following its limited independence within the French Union. Nationalists continued to push for an end to French colonialism. Laos gained full independence from France in 1954, but within a few years it entered into civil war. The United States supported a rightist regime in Laos. For nearly a decade beginning in 1964, Laos was subjected to heavy U.S. bombing as part of the wider war in Indochina. Following the change of regimes in Vietnam and Cambodia in 1975, a communist government also came to power in Laos. The government aligned itself with Vietnam and the Soviet bloc, implementing one-party rule and a command economy. U.S.-Lao relations deteriorated after 1975, and U.S. representation was downgraded. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Laos sought to improve relations with other countries. Full U.S.-Lao diplomatic relations were restored in 1992. In July 2012 Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Laos, marking the first visit by a Secretary of State since 1955.
Accounting for American personnel missing in Laos from the war was the initial focus of the post-war bilateral relationship. Since that time the relationship has broadened to include cooperation on a broad range of issues including counternarcotics, health, environment, and trade.
U.S. Assistance to Laos
Following the 1986 introduction of some economic reforms, Laos' economy is essentially a free market system with active central planning by the government. The overarching policy goals for U.S. assistance to Laos are to improve Lao governance and the rule of law, and increase the country’s capacity to integrate fully within the Association for Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the global economy.
The largest part of U.S. bilateral assistance to Laos is devoted to improving health. The United States also helps improve trade policy in Laos, promotes sustainable development and biodiversity conservation, and works to strengthen the criminal justice system and law enforcement. Unexploded ordnance (UXO) from the war, particularly cluster munitions, remains a major problem. The United States has provided significant support for UXO clearance, removal and assistance for survivors.
Bilateral Economic Relations
U.S. exports to Laos include diamonds, metals, aircraft, vehicles, and agricultural products. U.S. imports from Laos include apparel, inorganic chemicals, agricultural products, and jewelry. Laos acceded to the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2013, and has committed to joining the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC). Both of these processes require trade and regulatory reforms, which should make the investment climate more attractive to U.S. companies. WTO and AEC requirements also reinforce fuller implementation of the conditions of the 2005 U.S.-Laos bilateral trade agreement. The United States and Laos have a bilateral investment agreement and have signed a civil aviation agreement.
Laos's Membership in International Organizations
Laos and the United States belong to a number of the same international organizations, including the United Nations, ASEAN Regional Forum, International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organization and the World Bank. Bilateral Representation
Laos maintains an embassy in the United States at 2222 S Street NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel: 202-332-6416).
More information about Laos is available from the Department of State and other sources, some of which are listed here:
Department of State Laos Country Page
Department of State Key Officers List
CIA World Factbook Laos Page
U.S. Embassy: Laos
USAID Laos Page
History of U.S. Relations With Laos
Human Rights Reports
International Religious Freedom Reports
Trafficking in Persons Reports
Narcotics Control Reports
Investment Climate Statements
Office of the U.S. Trade Representative Countries Page
U.S. Census Bureau Foreign Trade Statistics
Library of Congress Country Studies
Travel and Business Information