Switzerland and the Lao People's Democratic Republic established diplomatic relations in 1963 and enjoy good bilateral relations. Switzerland supports the development effort in the Lao People's Democratic Republic through its international cooperation within the framework of a regional programme. Trade relations between the two countries are minimal.
Bilateral relations Switzerland–Laos
Key aspects of diplomatic relations
The Swiss embassy in Bangkok and its regional consular centre are accredited to the Lao People's Democratic Republic. A consular agency was opened in Vientiane in 2020 and in 2022 an honorary consulate was opened in Luang Prabang.
Switzerland and Laos have had diplomatic relations since 1963 and engage in regular dialogue on political and development cooperation issues. Ties in this area have been strengthened through a Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) cooperation office, opened in Vientiane in 2006.
Switzerland has also cooperated with Laos since 2016 within the framework of its sectoral dialogue partnership with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), of which Laos holds the chairmanship in 2024.
The Laotian ambassador to Switzerland resides in Geneva.
Economic and financial relations
Trade relations between Switzerland and Laos have been growing since the 1990s but remain small in scope. Switzerland's exports include watches and clocks, machinery and pharmaceuticals, while its main imports from the country are textiles.
Cooperation in education, research and innovation
The State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) is responsible for the implementation of Switzerland's International Strategy on Education, Research and Innovation.
Laotian students and scholars are eligible for Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships.
Development cooperation and humanitarian aid
Switzerland has supported the Lao People's Democratic Republic since 1995 under its programme devoted to the Mekong region. A framework agreement for international cooperation, covering technical, cultural, financial and economic cooperation and humanitarian aid, was signed in 2021 to facilitate Switzerland's activities in Laos. The Mekong regional strategy for 2022–25 has an annual budget of CHF 35 million and focuses on three main areas:
- Climate change and natural resource management
- Inclusive economic development
- Governance and civic participation.
Specific expenditure for the Lao People's Democratic Republic (bilateral programmes) comes to approximately CHF 15 million per year. Laos also benefits from regional initiatives amounting to CHF 7 million a year.
The SDC, through its humanitarian aid programme, provides support on an ad hoc basis after natural disasters and to ensure a sustainable recovery. Switzerland intervened, for example, following the collapse of a dam in the province of Attapeu in July 2018 and subsequently helped in securing several dams.
The Lao People's Democratic Republic also benefits from a number of regional economic development programmes run by the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO).
Swiss nationals in Laos
In February 2024, there were 115 Swiss nationals living in Laos (registered with the Swiss embassy in Bangkok, accredited to the Lao People's Democratic Republic).
History of bilateral relations
Switzerland recognised Laos in 1957. In 1963 the two countries established diplomatic relations, which are today managed by the Swiss embassy in Bangkok.