Congresswoman Betty McCollum (MN-04) hosted U.S. Ambassador to Laos, Douglas Hartwick, on a visit to St. Paul where he met with leaders of the Lao and Hmong communities in St. Paul, toured local businesses,… Congresswoman Betty McCollum (MN-04) hosted U.S. Ambassador to Laos, Douglas Hartwick, on a visit to St. Paul where he met with leaders of the Lao and Hmong communities in St. Paul, toured local businesses, and discussed the prospects for Congressional approval of normal trade relations (NTR) with Laos. Laos is the only country in the world that enjoys full diplomatic relations with the United States, but lacks normalized trade relations.
“Engagement, not isolation, can bring benefits to Hmong and Lao Minnesotans and their family members in Laos,” said Congresswoman McCollum. “The people of the U.S. and Laos deserve the opportunity to engage one another in a positive economic relationship and this is why I am here today in support of Normalized Trade Relations with Laos.”
“Establishing Normalized Trade Relations provides the United States with a unique opportunity to promote human rights, religious freedom, economic opportunity, and most of all, hope for the Lao people and their families in Minnesota,” continued McCollum.
A Report on Laos released in February 2003 by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom addresses the benefits that engagement may provide for improvement of human rights and religious freedom: “Laos is at an important crossroad, and U.S. attention to Laos at this time may advance protections for religious freedom and promote U.S. interests. The United States has a unique opportunity to engage the government and people of Laos in a process of reform that would end the suppression of religious freedom and other related human rights, and relatively small measures of attention and assistance could accomplish a great deal.”
Normalized trade relations with Laos is supported by the Bush administration and a recent letter from Secretary of State Colin Powell to the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee urged necessary Congressional action to establish NTR during the 108th Congress.