President Truong Tan Sang’s official visit to Laos from Feb. 9-11 is expected to consolidate and further strengthen the special solidarity and friendship between the two neighbouring countries.

The visit will be the first to Laos by Sang as the State President of Vietnam, as well as the first event in a series of activities celebrating the Year of Vietnam-Laos Solidarity and Friendship 2012.

Since Vietnam and Laos established diplomatic ties on Sept. 5, 1962, the traditional friendship and comprehensive cooperation between the two nations have been continuously consolidated and developed.

The two sides have maintained annual meetings of Inter-Governmental Committees and exchanged high-ranking delegations.

At the 33rd session of the Vietnam-Laos Inter-Governmental Committee, the two countries signed the 2011 Vietnam-Laos bilateral cooperation agreement, the Vietnam-Laos Cooperation Agreement for 2011-2015 and the Vietnam-Laos Cooperation Strategy for 2011-2020.

Vietnam has maintained its role as the second largest investor in Laos , with 224 investment projects totalling 3.57 billion USD, with a focus on mining, electricity, agriculture and services.

Two-way trade between Vietnam and Laos has increased steadily, reaching 636 million USD in the first 11 months of 2011, a year-on-year increase of 48 percent. Of this, Vietnam ’s exports to Laos were valued at 239 million USD, up 32 percent compared with the same period last year.

The two countries are striving to raise their two-way trade to 1 billion USD this year and 2 billion USD in 2015.

Educational cooperation between Vietnam and Laos remains a strategic cooperative field. The two sides have implemented a project to raise the quality and effectiveness of Vietnam-Laos cooperation in education and human resource development.

In 2011, the Vietnamese Government granted nearly 700 scholarships to Lao officials and students, while the Lao Government provided 40 long-term training scholarships for Vietnamese officials and students.

The further development of solidarity and traditional cooperation between the two countries’ localities has helped ensure social security along the border and effectively settled emerging issues to build a borderline of peace, stability and development.

Besides bilateral ties, the two sides have also regularly exchanged information on international issues and coordinated through activities of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), organisations and multilateral cooperation forums, as well as enhanced cooperation and jointly utilised Mekong River water resources.

Vietnam has actively shared its experiences with Laos in organising major events and in international integration./.