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"Myanmar boom" hits Japanese business sector

A photo shows people looking at a selection of Myanmar dishes at Feel restaurant in Yangon, Myanmar on Aug 24.The Yangon-based restaurant chain Feel attracts expatriates and locals alike.//EPA

A photo shows people looking at a selection of Myanmar dishes at Feel restaurant in Yangon, Myanmar on Aug 24.The Yangon-based restaurant chain Feel attracts expatriates and locals alike.//EPA

Hundreds of Japanese businessmen have visited Myanmar each month this year in search of investment opportunities in"Asia's last frontier," a Japanese official said Tuesday.



"The Myanmar boom is probably more feverish in Japan than it is inwestern countries," said Toshihiro Kudo, a senior researcher at Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO), a government-run office that faciliates Japanese trade and investment abroad.

"In one month 200 Japanese businessmen are visiting JETRO’soffice in Yangon for a briefing," Kudo told a Bangkok-based seminar on Myanmar’s recent reforms. "Previously, there would be 200 peoplein one year," he said.

Kudo, a Myanmar specialist at JETRO’s Tokyo headquarters, said that Japanese accounted for about 50 per cent of all foreign business missions to the country this year, also called Burma.

Japanese investments in Myanmar, a former pariah state in theworld community while it was under junta rule between 1988 to 2010, are small.

Between 1988 to 2011, Japanese companies invested 211.9 million dollars in Myanmar, compared with 13 billion dollars by Chinese companies and 9 billion by Thai companies, according to Myanmar government data.

Myanmar’s investment climate has improved dramatically since an ominally elected government came to power in March last year, and proceeded to implement politcal reforms that have improved the country’s image among western democracies.

US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton’s visit to Myanmar in December was a significant breakthrough for the country as an investment destination for Japanese companies, Kudo said.

"The visit changed the perception of Myanmar for the Japanese from a pariah to Asia’s last frontier," he said.


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