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Burma Chamber of Commerce says US sanctions ‘not a big issue’

US President Barack Obama puts his hands together after the conclusion of his speech at Rangoon University’ on 19 November 2012. (Photo: AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

By Thike Zin
May 23, 2014

The renewal of some US sanctions on Burma will not harm economic relations between the two countries, according to the Union of Myanmar [Burma] Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (UMFCCI).

“I don’t see how this can have a significant impact as the sanctions were already in place and are just being renewed,” said Maung Maung Lay, vice-president of the UMFCCI. “We’re already at rock-bottom so the only direction for us is up.”

Last week US President Barack Obama signed onto a one-year extension of the National Emergency Act, which limits some investments and military exchanges. Obama cited ongoing conflict and human rights abuse as cause for the extension.

After the lifting of most economic sanctions against Burma in 2012, the US fielded requests to preserve the restriction as a means of acknowledging known abuses that have continued despite Burma’s reform process. The Burmese government maintains, however, that the decision won’t damage their relationship.

“Basically this isn’t a big issue for companies and businessmen who are familiar with the situation,” Maung Maung Lay said, adding that a group of US-based companies and the UMFCCI are planning a conference in New York in September.

Not everyone shares this optimism. Win Kyiang, general-secretary of the Myanmar Fishery Federation, said the renewal of limited sanctions indicates that business incentives in Burma are about to slow, and the designation of Generalised System of Preference (GSP) benefits could be a distant goal.

“Renewal of the sanctions implies that we may not enjoy GSP privileges anytime soon, and, as I see it, this could hinder our fish trade with the US,” said Win Kyiang.

The European Union, however, reinstated Burma’s GSP status in 2013.

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