US eases sanctions on Burma
The United States formally eased sanctions on Wednesday to allow American companies to invest with Burma’s state oil and gas enterprise, signalling support for the recent government reforms in the deeply impoverished asian nation.
The US firms have been given opportunities to invest in projects with state-owned Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise, with the exception owned by Myanmar’s armed forces or its Ministry of Defense.
US President Barack Obama said in a statement: “Easing sanctions is a strong signal of our support for reform, and will provide immediate incentives for reformers and significant benefits to the people of Burma.”
Obama added: “Burma’s political and economic reforms remain unfinished. The United States government remains deeply concerned about the lack of transparency in Burma’s investment environment and the military’s role in the economy.”
Burmese democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League Democracy (NLD) welcomed the decision, but the Nobel Peace laureate explicitly urged foreign firms not to do business with the Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise because of concerns over its accountability and transparency.
Burmese President Thein Sein told the Financial Times in its exclusive interview: “It is extremely important that sanctions be lifted — both financial and other economic sanctions — to make possible the sort of trade and investments that this country desperately needs at this time.”
President Sein said opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s participation in the political process was vital to the country’s future. “All these economic sanctions have political reasons behind them. It is one of the reasons why it has been so important to engage with Suu Kyi and to include her in the process of political reconciliation.”
President Sein has introduced a series of democratic measures in the nation, which allowed Suu Kyi to win a seat in the parliament after 15 years of house arrest.
Suu Kyi advocated businesses in Burma to meet international standards such as International Monetary Fund’s code of good practices on fiscal transparency. She also supported Burma’s move to join the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, which calls for governments to disclose payments from oil, gas and mining companies.
Sanctions have also been lifted by European Union member states, Canada, Australia and Japan. The lifting of sanctions marks the latest step toward normalising relations between Burma and other trading nations.