Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Top U.S. trade officials heading to Burma

Tuesday, 10 July 2012 17:45 Mizzima News

Two key U.S. financial and trade officials will visit Burma on a two-day mission to promote trade on Saturday and Sunday.

Robert Hormats, the under secretary of state for economic growth, and Francisco Sanchez, the under secretary of commerce for international trade, will meet with Burma’s top financial leaders in Naypyitaw and Rangoon.

U.S. State Department official Robert Hormats. Photo: state.gov

Hormats and Sanchez will also join members of  a delegation of the U.S.-Asean Business Council, which promotes trade between the U.S. and Southeast Asia and has recently advocated greater business ties with Burma.

Prior to Burma, Hormats will travel to Hanoi on July 9–11 to promote U.S.-Vietnam economic ties.

He will then join Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to meet with government and business leaders and participate in events arranged by the U.S.-Asean Business Council in Cambodia. He will then travel to Siem Reap on July 12-13, where he will participate in “Commitment to Connectivity (C2C): The U.S.-Asean Business Forum,” the first-ever forum of its kind – an event which will include government and private sector participants from the United States and Asean member countries.

President Barack Obama's administration has eased restrictions on U.S. investment in Burma in hopes of encouraging more democratic reforms, while at the same time placed a renewed emphasis on engaging with Asean nations and Asia.

But unlike the European Union and Asian nations, the United States has kept in place a number of sanctions including a ban on imports from Burma such as gems, textiles and other commodities, which are seen as providing revenue for the military.

Many business groups have called for further trade with Burma, saying that U.S. companies are being put at a disadvantage, but human rights groups have pressed for the administration to maintain some sanctions as leverage.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton paid a landmark visit in December to Burma where she pressed U.S. concerns, including calling for an end to violence against ethnic minorities and the release of political prisoners.

Trade between the U.S. and the 10 Asean countries - if considered as one economic entity - was ranked as the United States' fourth largest export market and fifth-largest supplier of imports in 2010.

According to Asean statistics, total trade between Asean and the United States showed a sharp rebound in 2010, recording an increase of 24.4 per cent totaling $186.1 billion compared with the $149.6 billion in 2009.

Asean exports to the United States increased by 27 per cent to U.S. $85.6 billion while U.S. exports to Asean grew 22.3 per cent to $100.5 billion in 2010.

Foreign direct investment from the United States recorded significant increase of more than 100% in 2010.In flow from the United States amounted to $8.4 billion in 2010 compared with $4.1 billion in 2009. The U.S. remained as the third largest investor in Asean.

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