Thursday, September 27, 2012

US formally announces lifting of Burmese import ban

Thursday, 27 September 2012 12:09 Mizzima News

The US announced on Tuesday it would lift its ban on Burmese imports as a reward for the former military dictatorship’s embrace of political and economic reforms.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced the move in a meeting with Burma’s President Thein Sein on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York, where Thein Sein will address the grouping on Thursday.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Burma's President Thein Sein meet in New York City. Photo: President's office

Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who also called for the lifting of sanctions, also met with Thein Sein the New York on Tuesday after meeting US President Barack Obama last week at the White House.   

Thein Sein said the Burmese people were “very pleased” with the easing of economic sanctions and "very grateful" for the US action, according to an article on the Radio Free Asia website on Thursday.

“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,” Clinton told Thein Sein, according to media reports.

“We will begin the process of easing restrictions on imports of Burmese goods into the United States. We hope this will provide more opportunities for your people to sell their goods into our market,” she said.

The lifting of the import ban would provide a significant boon to Burma’s economy, which has suffered greatly under a military dictatorship for decades, which ended last year when Thein Sein's nominally civilian government took over.

The Burmese leader, in his UN address, is expected to highlight the reforms implemented by his government and ask the international community for support and encourage investment in Burma. 

Late Tuesday, Thein Sein and Suu Kyi, who is on a tour of the US, met informally in his suite at the Mark Hotel in New York City.

Thein Sein said that the two met in line with their cooperation to smooth the way for Burma’s transition to democratic rule.

“Daw Aung San Suu Kyi came to greet the president. We met and exchanged things about our trip and few things about the needs of the country,” a presidential assistant told RFA’s Burmese service on Wednesday.

“We are working together for the benefit of [Burma’s] nearly 60 million people. Sister Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is doing her job for the country, and the president is doing his job for the country as well. So it is a joint effort,” he said.

The spokesperson said Thein Sein would not meet with US President Barack Obama, adding that he was not concerned about being upstaged by Aung San Suu Kyi, who was welcomed to the Oval office for a private meeting with the US leader last week.

“Whether or not we met with Obama is not the issue. Some would say, ‘He’s meeting with this person but not with that one.’ We don't have that thought,” said the spokesperson.

He said the relationship between the president and the leader of his opposition has become closer.

“It is not like before, when [they] didn't meet each other. Now it has changed, and they are like brother and sister,” he said.

Analysts said the lifting of the USimport ban would be a big boost for the Burmese leadership.

“The timing of this announcement is a big win for Thein Sein,” Suzanne DiMaggio, New York-based Asia Society’s vice president of Global Policy Programs told RFA.

“He will return from his first visit to the US as Myanmar’s president with a major boost to his reform agenda. It’s a concrete deliverable that will go a long way towards muffling critics and hardliners at home," she said.

She said Aung San Suu Kyi’s endorsement of a further easing of sanctions to audiences in Washington last week helped to bring about the change.

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