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    US President Barack Obama greets monks as he tours the Wat Xieng Thong Buddhist Temple in Luang Prabang on September 7, 2016

    Reaching Out to Laos, Obama Seeks 'Concession Prize' in Twilight of Presidency

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    Barack Obama is accelerating his pivot to Asia, and seeking closer ties with Laos and new trade partners in the region, Dustin Daugherty, ASEAN Business Intelligence Associate at Dezan Shira & Associates, told Radio Sputnik.

    At the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Laos this week, US President Barack Obama made a speech in which he sought to acknowledge the suffering and devastation caused by America's bombing campaign during the Vietnam War.

    Between 1964 and 1973 the US dropped 260 million bombs over Laos, a campaign which made it the world's most heavily bombed country in human history.

    Obama is the first sitting US president to visit Laos, and promised the country $90 million in aid over three years to help the country find and dispose of unexploded bombs.

    Dustin Daugherty, ASEAN Business Intelligence Associate at Dezan Shira & Associates, told Radio Sputnik that Obama's effort to build bridges with Laos is one of several attempts at a closer relationship with countries that have a difficult history with the US.

    "Many Americans might not be aware of it, or haven't heard of Laos since the 70s, but there is a troubled relationship there, so I think these moves are very positive and part and parcel of his legacy of having opened the door to Cuba, and the nuclear deal with Iran."

    US President Barack Obama delivers remarks on the police shootings in Dallas after meeting with EU leaders at the NATO Summit in Warsaw, Poland July 8, 2016.
    © REUTERS / Jonathan Ernst
    Daugherty said that reaching out to Laos is also part of the Obama administration's attempt to pivot towards Asia. While pulling Laos out of the China's sphere of influence is unrealistic, Washington is hoping for closer economic ties, similar to those it has with Vietnam.

    "Washington has a modus operandi to get in there, and now it has an economic impetus behind it."

    The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is unlikely to be agreed before the Obama presidency finishes at the end of this year, so fostering closer ties with Laos and attracting new Asian trade partners would soften that blow. 

    "Any improvements that can be had with new trade partners in Asia in lieu of the TPP would be a concession prize for Obama," Daugherty said.

    "This is a last push during the Obama presidency, with some uncertainty about what happens next, and also a response to the continuing rise of China's influence in the region."

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