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Laos set to join WTO after decades behind bamboo curtain

Published on Oct 25, 2012 11:59 AM

BANGKOK (REUTERS) - Isolated for decades, impoverished and landlocked, Laos is not an obvious choice for investors.

But the Communist country of 6.4 million people hopes to change that with its expected entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO) on Friday, capping years of steady reforms aimed at building a modern economy and tapping a Southeast Asian boom as global manufacturers hunt for lower-cost alternatives to China.

"Laos now seems to be genuinely competitive, unlike before," said Hal Hill, a professor at Australian National University who specialises in Southeast Asian economies.

After 15 years of talks, the 157-member, Geneva-based world trade body is expected to confirm Laos as a member on Friday.

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