U.S. Chamber Calls for Normalization of U.S.-Myanmar Relations

Monday, June 6, 2016 - 6:00am

Policy Paper Recommends Measures to Promote Trade, Investment, Economic Growth

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The U.S. Chamber of Commerce today released a white paper on normalizing the U.S.-Myanmar relationship, and put forward a number of policy recommendations to boost trade and investment between the two countries and improve the investment environment in Myanmar. The report, entitled “U.S.-Myanmar Commercial Relations: The Next Phase,” was released today at a joint meeting in Yangon between the U.S. Chamber and the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry.

“In light of Myanmar’s progress over the past several years, including last November’s historic elections, we think it is time to normalize this relationship,” said Tami Overby, senior vice president for Asia at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Last November, the opposition National League for Democracy won a landslide victory over the ruling party and for the first time in half a century, Myanmar now has a freely elected president. “Trade, investment and economic growth all promote progress in Myanmar,” added Overby. “Sanctions do the opposite.” While the United States announced some measures to ease sanctions last month, the basic framework for sanctions remains in place. 

The paper offers a range of policy recommendations to both the U.S. and Myanmar governments. On the U.S. side, the paper calls for the lifting of economic sanctions on Myanmar under the International Economic Emergency Powers Act (IEEPA), the law which underlies most U.S. sanctions against Myanmar. It also calls for the inclusion of Myanmar in the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), a duty-free program 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. 

Last month, the United States announced that, pursuant to IEEPA, sanctions would be extended, as would the waivers which have allowed U.S. companies to invest in the country for the past four years. However, under IEEPA, an extensive list of Myanmar companies and individuals are on a “Specially Designated Nationals” (SDN) list.  U.S. companies are prohibited from doing business with SDNs, or with entities in which SDNs have a 50% or greater ownership stake, putting a substantial portion of the economy off-limits to Americans.

The paper also examines a myriad of urgent economic reform priorities. These include financial sector development; land use laws; power generation and transmission issues and inadequate infrastructure; limited human capital; regulatory and taxation uncertainty; and fundamental rule of law issues.  In each area, the paper offers specific recommendations. 

The white paper can be viewed in its entirety here.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the world’s largest business federation representing the interests of more than 3 million businesses of all sizes, sectors, and regions, as well as state and local chambers and industry associations. Its International Affairs division includes more than 50 regional and policy experts and 25 country- and region-specific business councils and initiatives. The U.S. Chamber also works closely with 116 American Chambers of Commerce abroad.