During a landmark visit to the United States by President Thein Sein of Myanmar to the United Nations General Assembly, the United States Government this week announced it would lift the last remaining sanctions that have been imposed on Myanmar (Burma) which have mostly been in effect since 1990 which adds impetus to the rapid and sweeping progressive reform over the past year of a resource rich albeit impoverished country.
The sanctions which have been gradually lifted this year covered visa and travel restrictions, restrictions on financial services, prohibitions of goods from Myanmar, prohibition of any local investment as well as limitation on any assistance by the United States Government.
This latest announcement follows a number of positive political steps in Myanmar which include the dissolution of the former State Peace and Development Council in March this year with power transferred to the new quasi-civilian Union Government.
In addition, other steps made by President Thein Sein of the Union Government has been the release of political prisoners and ceasefire talks with various ethnic-based militias along with amendment of the national laws which allowed opposition parties to participate in the parliamentary elections this year.
The complete lifting of the sanctions follows similar moves taken by the international community to equally roll back tough sanctions.
In July, an economic announcement was made giving the green light for United States investment which enabled a US trade delegation to visit the country just a few days later. Earlier this month, the Coca-Cola Company announced it had begun to ship drinks to businesses in Myanmar, and some reports say that it is projected to invest USD100 million over the next three years generating about 2,000 jobs for Myanmar citizens.
The latest political development underlines the remarkable pace and new direction taken for economic and political development in Myanmar and normalizing a commercial relationship giving opportunities for Myanmar nationals to export their goods into the United States.
According to the Myanmar Garment Association, the lifting of the import ban this week will especially assist garment exports to the United States – which had been the largest market before the ban was imposed back in 2003. Apparently some 72% of garment exports in 2011 were exported mostly to Japan and South Korea totaling about USD558 million.
by William Miller (Partner, HK, NZ, AU Solicitor)
Sean Hayes may be contacted at: SeanHayes@ipglegal.com.
Sean Hayes is co-chair of the Korea Practice Team for one of the leading international law firms. He is the only non-Korean to have worked as an attorney for the Korean court system (Constitutional Court of Korea).