THE MYANMAR and US private sectors repeated their calls for |the complete lifting of all the sanctions against Myanmar as well as the reinstatement of the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP), saying only those moves would help Myanmar reach its full e
At a conference on Monday called “US-Myanmar Economic Relations: The Next Phase”, Maung Maung |Lay, vice president of the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (UMFCCI), said Myanmar was in a new era. A newly elected government is now setting people-centred policies, promoting good governance and transparency.
“The long wait is now over. Now we can proactively engage with the US business community. Our new government is making efforts for inclusive economic growth. In this regard, it is really important to undertake the reforms freely without any barrier. We want sanctions to be completely lifted and the trade preferences back,” he said.
“We would like to regain our past glory. We understand engagement with the US is crucial. The UMFCCI is committed to ensuring all possible assistance to promote bilateral economic cooperation.”
John Goyer, the US Chamber of Commerce’s senior director for Southeast Asia, said the US business community fully supported Myanmar’s efforts to modernise and open the economy, and was willing to be a partner in these efforts.
“There is great potential for trade and investment between Myanmar and the US. But the potential is just a potential. It is yet to be realised. We want to realise that potential,” he said.
“Myanmar has an ambitious and daunting economic-reform agenda. For our part, we will continue to advocate for the normalisation of the US-Myanmar relationship.”
A white paper that includes policy recommendations for both the US and Myanmar governments was released at the event. The paper calls for the lifting of economic sanctions under the International Economic Emergency Powers Act, the law that underlies most US sanctions against Myanmar.
It also calls for the inclusion of Myanmar in the GSP, a duty-free programme meant to support economic growth in developing countries, as well as exploratory talks on a bilateral investment treaty and various types of technical and capacity building support.
Their calls were met with a positive response.
US Ambassa-dor to Myanmar Scot Marciel reiterated his country’s support for Myanmar’s transition to democracy and the government’s efforts to promote inclusive economic growth.
He said he saw huge opportunities for US companies in power, transport, services, telecommunications and many other sectors. He said US companies could bring the best practices to Myanmar and help it fight corruption and promote transparency and the rule of law.
Marciel said the sanctions were being discussed in Washington, taking Myanmar’s mining sector into serious consideration.
“US companies have a lot of opportunities here and a lot of things [they] can contribute to Myanmar. That is why our colleagues in Washington are reviewing the GSP opportunities for Myanmar. We are eager to support and encourage our companies [that] are already here or that are considering coming here. We want more American companies here.”
Goyer said US businesses had invested more than US$226 billion (Bt8 trillion) in Southeast Asia to date and less than 1 per cent had been directed to Myanmar.
According to the Myanmar Directorate of Investment and Company Administration, the country has approved $248 million in US investment as of June 7. Last year, US exports to Myanmar were worth $227 million while imports from the country reached $144 million.
A report notes seven key challenges for US companies looking to invest in Myanmar - access to finance, access to land and the uncertainty of who actually has title to the land, access to electricity, access to skilled and healthy workers, the rule of law and corruption, regulatory and taxation uncertainty, and severely underdeveloped infrastructure.
In each of those areas, the report provides actionable, specific recommendations to encourage reforms and promote sustainable economic growth.