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Laos Traditional Handicraft Assistance Project - The Gift Project by JETRO -

January 2017

JETRO launched a new project for Laos

At the request of the Lao government, JETRO has been jointly conducting support activities with the Lao Handicraft Association (LHA) since 2001, aiming to improve the quality and expand exports of Lao handicraft in accordance with the export strategy of Laos. The Gift Project, started by JETRO in 2015, is one part of this effort.

The project has been providing support in which local handicraft makers are able to learn how to develop their products into specialty gift items which can draw the interest of foreign tourists visiting Laos. While the quality of Lao handicraft is held in high regard, the products have until now not generally been created from the perspective of selling gift items. Instead, those intended to meet the needs of local residents are also marketed toward inbound tourists as they are. JETRO, therefore, began this project to help develop the daily commodities into lucrative items by changing this outlook.

Sample gift product

In the beginning, JETRO dispatched an expert to Laos in August 2015 and held a seminar under the title of “New Lao Gift, New Lao Handicraft” to provide information regarding the custom of souvenir-giving, packaging and relevant trends. In addition, open consulting services were provided to the Lao companies, and lively discussion was held throughout the venue on what can be improved upon. Some ideas regarding the creation of items never seen before in Laos were brought up, including new methods for using materials and design.

At the Laos Handicraft Festival in Vientiane from October to November 2015, the first gift contest in collaboration with the LHA was held with the aim of further improving the quality of their products as gift items.
On the occasion of a visit to Japan by Lao Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith to attend an outreach meeting held in tandem with the G7 Ise-Shima Summit last May, JETRO Chairman and CEO Hiroyuki Ishige presented him with the product of the Gift Project as a commemorative gift.


Expert assisting at seminar

JETRO Chairman Ishige presenting product of Gift Project to Prime Minister Thongloun

Series of activities acclaimed by Laos and Japan

For the purpose of promoting the Lao handicraft, a display booth was set up close to the venues of such international events as the 48th ASEAN Economic Ministers Meeting (AEM) and its related meetings (from July 31 to August 7, 2016), and the ASEAN Business and Investment Summit (ABIS) 2016 (from September 5 to 7), all of them held in Vientiane, the capital of Laos, which currently holds the ASEAN presidency. Moreover, in order to spread awareness of the skill of Lao craftsmanship, the LHA and JETRO jointly created a catalog compiling products of the 10 contest-winning Lao companies.

Lao Industry and Commerce Minister Khemmani Pholsena expressed her appreciation for the efforts of the project at the AEM, while economic ministers in attendance received some of the products listed in the catalogue as official souvenirs of the meeting. The various improvements made to the products since the start of the program had noticeably paid off. During the event’s run, many Laotian and international visitors dropped by the booth and showed interest in the exquisite handicraft, which includes accessories, indigo-dyed scarves and tea sets. Japanese Economic Minister Hiroshige Seko also highly praised the project and the products on display. At the summit meeting last September, Japanese Prime Minister Abe had big hopes for the future of the collaboration after witnessing the outcome with his own eyes at the booth. Several local newspapers covered the exhibit and reported that participants in the AEM were interested in the Laotian gift products and the project as a whole.


Minister Khemmani’s visit to JETRO booth (middle of the back row)

Prime Minister Abe’s visit to JETRO booth

Through the Gift Project, the immense potential for Lao handicraft to become souvenirs which can represent Laos in stores throughout the country was felt. In the future, JETRO aims to plan collaboration between Laotian and Japanese companies by facilitating further improvement in technical capabilities and marketing skills in order to expand sales outside of Laos as well.