t H e
July 16 - 22, 2012
Myanmar’s first international weekly Volume 32, No. 635 1200 Kyats
By Victoria Bruce
AMERICAN companieswere given approval toinvest in Myanmar by theUnited States governmentlast week but will have toadhere to strict reportingguidelines, the White Housesaid in a statement.The reporting guidelineshave been put in placeto ensure transparent,accountable and responsibleinvestment, the July 12statement said.The much-anticipatedannouncement presentsthe legal framework for USinvestment and companiessuch as Chevron, Proctor& Gamble, Google, Boeing,Coca Cola and Pepsi aredue to visit Yangon at theweekend, US embassyofficials in Yangon said.“We’ve essentially movedfrom broad to targetedsanctions,” US embassydeputy head of missionEleanor Nagy told
The Myanmar Times
.The move is a demonstra-tion of support for PresidentU Thein Sein’s governmentand will encourage continuedprogress toward democracy,Ms Nagy said.“We recognise that theMyanmar government’sreform process is ongoingbut is not complete,” shesaid.She added that the twogovernments were engagedin a dialogue on other areaswhere the US would like tosee progress, including themilitary’s human rightsrecord, corruption, ethnicconflict and its relationswith North Korea.Economic engagementby US companies wouldencourage the government’sreform progress and benefitthe population, Ms Nagysaid. She added that thereporting requirementswould encourage greaterresponsibility andtransparency.US firms investing morethan US$500,000 in newprojects will be required toreport on their policies andprocedures with respectto human rights, worker’srights, land acquisition, aswell as report any paymentsexceeding $10,000 toMyanmar governmententities.The two general licencesannounced by the WhiteHouse last week permit theexport of financial services toMyanmar and will allow USfirms to invest in all sectors,except defence, and engagewith all entities, exceptthe two military-ownedcompanies – MyanmarEconomic Corporationand Union of MyanmarEconomic Holdings Ltd, aswell as people listed on theUS Government’s targetedsanctions list on individuals. A Congress-imposed ban onimports from Myanmarto the US was recentlyrenewed, however.The reporting require-ments for new investmentwere cautiously welcomedby experts, includingSean Turnell, an associateprofessor of economicsat Australia’s MacquarieUniversity.“It is really hard to seeany reasonable argumentagainst such transparencyand I am somewhat hopefulthey might even provokea sort of ‘transparencycontagion’ with respect toother country investors,”he said.By allowing new invest-ment, the US governmenthad ignored Daw AungSan Suu Kyi’s concernsabout doingbusinesswith state-run energycompanyMyanmarOil and GasEnterprise (MOGE), rightsgroups said.“The US looks like itcaved to industry pressureand undercut Daw AungSan Suu Kyi and others inBurma who are promotinggovernment accountability,”Human Rights Watchbusiness and human rightsdirector Arvind Ganesansaid in a statement on July11.However, some expertsdoubted that the legalframework would prompt arush of US investment. TheUS maintains substantialsanctions against Myanmar,said Mr Derek Tonkin, aformer British ambassadorto Thailand and Vietnamand chairman of non-profitgroup Network Myanmar.He said majorinternational financialinstitutions such as theIMF, World Bank and ADBare still limited to providingadvice and assessments,rather than funding forprojects.
rules forUS firms revealed
RelatedStory onPage 23
Stuart Alan Becker
SIEM REAP, Cambodia – US Secretaryof State Hillary Clinton held landmarktalks with President U Thein Sein onJuly 13 as he pleaded for the globalcommunity to end decades of isolationfor his nation.The pair met in the Cambodiantourist town Siem Reap on the sidelinesof a major US business conference, afterthe US on July 11 gave the green lightto firms to invest in Myanmar, includingin oil and gas.Shaking hands in the lush gardensof a luxury hotel, Ms Clinton toldPresident U Thein Sein that shewas sending “a very distinguisheddelegation” to his country to scout outopportunities for US business andinvestment.President U Thein Sein later told adinner attended by top US businessleaders that his impoverished Southeast Asian nation would welcome an influxof investment into a country which had“lagged behind in development for thepast 60 years”.“Myanmar is at a critical juncture,where she has evolved from the militaryadministration putting an end to armedconflict to achieve sustainable peaceand moving toward a new democraticera,” he said.“Building a democratic state will bethe biggest challenge for our peopleand our country. We must reform thebureaucratic system and the mindsetof government officials.”He told the audience that Myanmarhad to “walk out” from a centralisedsystem that had been practiced fora half-century and build a maturedemocratic state by reforming theexecutive, legislative and judiciarybodies.President U Thein Sein said he hadgranted amnesty to many prisoners,and relaxed regulations on media andtelecommunications, including aneasing of censorship procedures: “Wehave committed ourselves to enacta Media Law for media freedom andtransparency in the near future.”On economic policy, President UThein Sein said reforms were underwayto transform a centralised economy intoa market-oriented economy, using anew Micro-Finance Act and by seekingassistance from foreign experts.He expressed regret that economicsanctions were preventing his countryfrom receiving assistance frominternational monetary institutionssuch as the World Bank, InternationalMonetary Fund, Asian DevelopmentBank and United Nations DevelopmentProgram.“We have the fervent desire to seektechnical know-how and to set upeconomic engagement with othercountries, but the challenge is thatsanctions are still restricting us fromdoing so,” he said.President U Thein Sein said theMyanmar Investment Commissionhad drafted four principles for invitingforeign investors to Myanmar: to protectthe interest of Myanmar citizens,the dignity of the state and nationalsovereignty, and to allow environment-friendly investment.Ms Clinton, whose speech was thefirst to be delivered at the dinner,complimented the Myanmar leader.“I also want to thank President UThein Sein, who has moved his countrysuch a long distance in such a shortperiod of time,” she said.“We’re excited by what lies ahead,and we’re very supportive of PresidentU Thein Sein’s economic and politicalreforms,” she said.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton welcomes President U Thein Sein before a meeting in Siem Reap on July 13.
Clinton ‘excited’ aboutprogress in Myanmar
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