Amidst its efforts to bolster economic ties with a number of different Southeast Asian nations, the United States has now removed Cambodia and Laos from a trade blacklist that previously made U.S. companies seeking to do business in those countries ineligible for government-backed loans.
The decision will “allow U.S. companies to apply for financing through the U.S. Export-Import Bank, which provides working capital guarantees, export credit insurance and loan guarantees," said a White House spokesman.
Both Cambodia and Laos have agreed to open up their markets substantially in the upcoming months.
Concurrent with the announcement of the change, U.S. President Barak Obama issued a pair of statements explaining the decision as natural because the two Southeast Asian nations had each “ceased to be a Marxist-Leninist country.” This designation had previously barred the Export-Import Bank of the United States from lending to U.S. businesses in Cambodia and Laos.
U.S. ties with both countries had long been damaged by concerns about the fates of U.S. service members missing since the Vietnam War, but in recent years the United States has been effecting a shift in policy, establishing normal trade ties with Laos in 2004 and lifting all trade restrictions on aid to Cambodia in 2007.
With a combined population of just over 20 million, Cambodia and Laos constitute relatively small markets for the U.S. In 2008 the U.S. exported $154 million worth of goods to Cambodia and $18 million to Laos, while importing more than $2.4 billion from Cambodia -- mostly clothing and other textiles -- and $42 million from Laos.