Top 10 Exports from Laos

Laos flag courtesy of Wikipedia

Laos flag (Wikipedia)

A landlocked Southeast Asian nation on the Indochinese peninsula, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic shipped US$4.7 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2017. That dollar amount reflects from an 56% gain since 2013 and a 49.2% increase from 2016 to 2017.

Based on estimates from the Central Intelligence Agency’s World Factbook, exported goods plus services from Laos represent 35.7% of total Laotian economic output or Gross Domestic Product. Please note that the overall value of exported goods and services includes a sizable share of re-exports. The analysis below focuses on exported products only.

From a continental perspective based on 2016 data, 92.2% of Laotian exports by value were delivered to other Asian countries while 5.8% were sold to European importers. Laos shipped another 1% worth of goods to Africa with a comparable 1% going to North America.

Given Laos’s population of 7.1 million people, its total $4.7 billion in 2017 exports translates to an estimated $650 for every resident in the Southeast Asian country.

Trading Economics projects the unemployment rate for Laos to be 1.5% as of June 2018.

Top 10 Exports from Laos

Top 10

The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Laotian global shipments during 2017. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Laos.

At the more granular four-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level, the most valuable exported products from Laos are electrical energy, copper, TV/radio/radar device parts, mobile phones, natural rubber, rough wood then gold.

  1. Mineral fuels including oil: US$1.2 billion (25.1% of total exports)
  2. Electrical machinery, equipment: $588.3 million (12.6%)
  3. Ores, slag, ash: $553 million (11.9%)
  4. Copper: $404 million (8.7%)
  5. Wood: $272.5 million (5.8%)
  6. Rubber, rubber articles: $198.4 million (4.3%)
  7. Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): $155.2 million (3.3%)
  8. Gems, precious metals: $127.9 million (2.7%)
  9. Vegetables: $112.5 million (2.4%)
  10. Cereals: $88.7 million (1.9%)

Laos’s top 10 exports accounted for over three-quarters (78.8%) of the overall value of its global shipments.

Mineral fuels-related product category was the fastest-growing among the top 10 export categories, up by 15,474% from 2013 to 2017.

In second place for improving export sales was Laotian exported wood which rose 964.5% year over year.

The rubber and rubber articles category posted the third-fastest appreciation up by 148.4%.

The leading decliner among the top 10 Laotian export categories was ores, slag and ash which fell by -26.4%.


The following types of Laotian product shipments represent positive net exports or a trade balance surplus. Investopedia defines net exports as the value of a country’s total exports minus the value of its total imports.

In a nutshell, net exports represent the amount by which foreign spending on a home country’s goods or services exceeds or lags the home country’s spending on foreign goods or services.

  1. Ores, slag, ash: US$975.2 million (Up by 269% since 2012)
  2. Copper: $344.6 million (Down by -56.5%)
  3. Fruits, nuts: $149.9 million (Up by 494.8%)
  4. Vegetables: $95.8 million (Up by 446.3%)
  5. Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): $95.2 million (Reversing a -$1.9 million deficit)
  6. Inorganic chemicals: $80.2 million (Reversing a -$8.9 million deficit)
  7. Gems, precious metals: $59.2 million (Down by -62.7%)
  8. Coffee, tea, spices: $57.8 million (Down by -25.6%)
  9. Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: $40.6 million (Reversing a -$1.6 million deficit)
  10. Rubber, rubber articles: $36.3 million (Reversing a -$8.3 million deficit)

Laos has highly positive net exports in the international trade of copper, iron, tin, lead or zinc ores and concentrates. In turn, these cashflows indicate Laos’s strong competitive advantages under the ores, slag and ash category.


Laos incurred an overall -$1.3 billion trade deficit for 2017, up by 34.2% from the -$982.9 million in red ink during 2016.

Below are exports from Laos that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country Laos’s goods trail Laotian importer spending on foreign products.

  1. Machinery including computers: -US$743.4 billion (Up by 106.5% since 2016)
  2. Vehicles: -$613.4 million (Down by -3.4%)
  3. Articles of iron or steel: -$248.6 million (Up by 56.8%)
  4. Electrical machinery, equipment: -$241.1 million (Down by -25.7%)
  5. Iron, steel: -$236.8 million (Up by 33.5%)
  6. Railways, streetcars: -$175.9 million (Up by 29,809%)
  7. Plastics, plastic articles: -$143.8 million (Up by 121.4%)
  8. Live animals: -$124.8 million (Up by 5,306%)
  9. Cereal/milk preparations: -$111.5 million (Up by 1,268%)
  10. Meat: -$104 million (Up by 581.3%)

Laos has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits under the machinery including computers category, notably for computers and related parts or accessories.


Laotian Export Companies

Not one Laotian corporation ranks among Forbes Global 2000.

Wikipedia lists international trade-related companies from Laos. Selected examples are shown below:

  • Electricité du Laos (electricity)
  • Lao Airlines (airliner)
  • Lao Brewery Company (alcoholic beverages)
  • Lao Skyway (airliner)
  • Nam Theun 2 Power Company (electricity)

Nicknamed the “Sandalwood City”, Vientiane is the capital city for Laos.

Please note that the results listed above are at the 2-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level.

See also Indonesia’s Top 10 Exports, Indonesia’s Top 10 Imports, Top Asian Export Countries and Coal Exports by Country

Research Sources:
Forbes 2016 Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on June 24, 2018

International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on June 24, 2018

International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on June 24, 2018

Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on June 24, 2018

The World Factbook, Asia: Laos. Accessed on June 24, 2018

Wikipedia, Flag of Laos. Accessed on June 24, 2018

Wikipedia, Laos. Accessed on June 24, 2018

Wikipedia, List of Companies of Laos. Accessed on June 24, 2018

World’s Capital Cities, Capital Facts for Vientiane, Laos. Accessed on June 24, 2018