Friday, September 28, 2012

US to ease sanctions on imports from Myanmar

In a move that is expected to give significant economic boost to Myanmar, the US has said it will begin easing restrictions on imports of goods from the South east Asian country in recognition of efforts by its government to bring the country back on the road to democracy.

The announcement was made by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during her meeting with Myanmar's President U Thein Sein on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly on Wednesday.
It comes just a week after Myanmar's pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi embarked on a historic visit to the United States and urged lifting of sanctions on her country.
"In recognition of the continued progress toward reform and in response to requests from both the government and the opposition, the United States is taking the next step in normalizing our commercial relationship. We will begin the process of easing restrictions on imports of Burmese goods into the US," Clinton said before her meeting with Sein in New York.
Clinton expressed hope that the move would provide more opportunities for the people of Myanmar to sell their goods into the US market.
"We have watched as you and your government have continued the steady process of reform, and we've been pleased to respond with specific steps that recognize the governments efforts and encourage further reform," she said.
It was Clinton's third meeting with Sein, who was making his first visit to the US to attend the General Assembly.
Clinton had earlier met him her on her trip to Myanmar last December and at a meeting of the Association of South East Asian Nations in Cambodia in July.
Following the implementation of political reforms by Myanmar, the US has been gradually lifting sanctions against the country which had been under the rule of military generals from 1962 till last year.
The political transition in Myanmar also saw Suu Kyi being released from 15 years of house arrest.
Suu Kyi is the opposition leader and chairperson of the National League for Democracy.
The US had lifted sanctions on American investment in Myanmar in June and last week announced it is lifting long- standing sanctions on Sein and parliamentary speaker Thura Shwe Mann.
The US Treasury Department acknowledged steps taken by Sein and Mann to promote political reforms and human rights and take Myanmar away from repression and dictatorship toward democracy.
Sein said he is grateful to the US for lifting the sanctions and added that frequent meetings between the two nations have contributed to strengthening the health of bilateral relations.
"We still need to continue our path on democratic reforms, but with the recognition and the support from the champion of democracy like the United States, it has been an encouragement for us to continue our chosen path," he said.
Clinton said the US would continue to consult the Congress and other relevant stakeholders about additional steps that can be taken to improve economic ties with Myanmar.
She said the US would also continue to work with the Myanmar government and support those who are "hoping that the reform will be permanent and progress will be continuing."
"We recognize, that you are doing many things at once political reform, moving toward a democratic change; economic reform, moving toward greater connection of your country with the global economy; working to end ethnic conflicts as you move toward peace and stability for your country," she said.
Suu Kyi party hails US easing of Myanmar import ban
The political party of Myanmar's democracy champion Aung San Suu Kyi, on Thursday welcomed US moves to ease a ban on imports from the long-isolated nation, hailing it as a positive long term step.
The move to lift the last major trade sanctions on Myanmar came after "tripartite" talks involving Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Myanmar President Thein Sein and Suu Kyi, according to a spokesman for the Nobel laureate's party.
"We welcome the lifting of import bans, although of course the people cannot get an immediate benefit from it," said Ohn Kyaing, of the National League for Democracy (NLD).
"But we do think it will be good in the long term."
The international community began dismantling its embargoes against Myanmar this year in response to reforms including the new quasi-civilian government's eagerness to welcome Suu Kyi and her party into mainstream politics and the freeing of hundreds of political prisoners.
The ban on imports from Myanmar, also known as Burma, was imposed under a 2003 act by Congress, although there was little trade at the time, with America mostly importing some hardwoods and gems, and some garments.
US officials will now have to examine each sector with Congress and decide how best to go about easing the sanctions.

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