More information about Laos is available on the Laos country page and from other Department of State publications and other sources listed at the end of this fact sheet.
The United States established full diplomatic relations with Laos in 1955, following its full independence from France in 1954. Within a few years, Laos entered into a civil war, and the United States supported the country’s royalist government. 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 Vientiane as the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR). 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 U.S.-Lao relations deteriorated after 1975, and U.S. representation was downgraded though not withdrawn completely. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Lao PDR sought to improve relations with other countries and move toward a market economy. Full U.S.-Lao diplomatic relations were restored in 1992. In July 2012, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited the Lao PDR, marking the first visit by a Secretary of State since 1955. Secretary of State John Kerry was the second, visiting the Lao PDR twice in 2016. President Obama became the first U.S. President to visit in September 2016, when he and Lao President Bounnhang Vorachit announced a Comprehensive Partnership.
The United States and the Lao PDR continue to broaden cooperation on a range of issues including health, child nutrition, education, environmental protection, trade liberalization, legal reform, counter-narcotics, law enforcement cooperation, humanitarian assistance, and English language training. This expansion in cooperation accelerated in 2009, with the launch of the Lower Mekong Initiative and the 2016 establishment of the U.S.-Lao Comprehensive Partnership, and will continue to grow with the new Mekong-U.S. Partnership, which was initiated in 2020. The United States and the Lao PDR share a commitment to ensuring a prosperous and sustainable future for the Mekong sub-region. The United States and the Lao PDR also continue to resolve war legacy issues, including clearance of unexploded ordnance (UXO) and accounting for missing American personnel.
U.S. Assistance to Laos
The overarching policy goals for U.S. assistance to the Lao PDR are to help the country meet its development goals and maintain economic sovereignty, which increase the Lao PDR’s capacity to integrate fully within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the global economy.
A large part of U.S. bilateral assistance to the Lao PDR is devoted to improving health and education, accelerating economic and trade reforms, strengthening governance and rule of law, and building resilience to climate change. The United States also supports vulnerable populations through programs that counter human and narcotics trafficking and assist persons with disabilities. The United States maintains significant UXO removal programs and helps educate the people of the Lao PDR about the risk of UXO as well as provide support to victims of UXO incidents.
Bilateral Economic Relations
The Lao PDR is one of the fastest-growing economies in the region, and expects strong recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. U.S. exports to the Lao PDR include metals, vehicles, and agricultural products. U.S. imports include apparel, inorganic chemicals, agricultural products, and precious metals. The Lao PDR acceded to the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2013 and is part of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC). Both of these organizations have required—and will continue to spur—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 two countries also signed a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement in February 2016.
The Lao PDR’s Membership in International Organizations
The Lao PDR and the United States belong to a number of the same international organizations, including the United Nations, ASEAN Regional Forum, Mekong-U.S. Partnership, International Monetary Fund, World Trade Organization, and World Bank. The Lao PDR is a member of ASEAN and the United States is a Dialogue Partner. Lao PDR serves as the U.S. country coordinator within ASEAN from 2018-2021.
Principal embassy officials are listed in the Department’s Key Officers List.
The Lao PDR 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:
CIA World Factbook Laos Page
USAID Laos Page
History of U.S. Relations With Laos
Office of the U.S. Trade Representative Countries Page
U.S. Census Bureau Foreign Trade Statistics
Library of Congress Country Studies