Today I announce the appointment of Mr Paul Kelly as Australia’s next Ambassador to the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR).
Australia and Lao PDR are close bilateral and regional partners, with diplomatic relations since 1952. Australia and Lao PDR are parties to the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement (AANZFTA) and recently signed the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership – the world’s largest free trade agreement.
Australian businesses have a long history of investment in Lao PDR’s mining, transport and logistics services, and banking sectors. We share a common interest in an open and prosperous Indo-Pacific region.
In 2020-21, Australia provided an estimated $40.1 million in official development assistance to Lao PDR. Our development assistance is helping Lao PDR respond to COVID-19 by strengthening health system preparedness, supporting economic recovery and protecting the most vulnerable, including people experiencing gender-based violence.
We also continue to help Lao PDR improve access to education, strengthen its human resources and build a more competitive private sector. The new Mekong-Australia Partnership will further deepen Australian and Lao PDR ties as we work together to ensure a resilient Mekong subregion.
Our strong people-to-people links are underpinned by a well-established alumni network, including several current and former ministers. More than 15,000 people in Australia identify as having Lao ancestry.
Mr Kelly is a senior officer with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and was most recently Assistant Secretary, Humanitarian Response, Risk and Recovery Branch. He has previously served overseas in Honiara, Ho Chi Minh City and Suva.
I thank outgoing Ambassador Jean-Bernard Carrasco for his contributions to advancing Australia’s interests in Lao PDR since 2018.