On Tuesday, President Barack Obama announced that the United States would be easing some of its economic sanctions on Burma. Under new provisions, seven Burmese companies and three state-run banks will be allowed to engage in business with American corporations. The announcement shortly followed the seating of Burma's first democratically elected government in decades, led by the opposition party of revolutionary Aung San Suu Kyi. Obama cited several other developments in Burma that led to this decision: the freeing of several political prisoners, the discharge of child soldiers from the Burmese military, and improved labor standards. The lifting of these particular sanctions is meant to reward Burma for taking the steps toward a more democratic society.
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Southeast Asia has been lauded for its robust connectivity and commerce within sectors ranging from manufacturing to tourism to technology for the past few decades. And, in light of recent events, Burma (also known as Myanmar) seems to be following the same trend. Last month, more than 22 companies announced they will move manufacturing facilities into Burma’s Thilawa Special Economic Zone (SEZ). The initiative is one of the first steps President Thein Sein took to reintegrate Burma in the global economy. When fully-functioning, Thilawa will be able to employ 70,000 workers and manufacture goods, consumer products, and construction materials for the domestic market, while also supporting export-oriented goods such as apparel, textiles, and automotive parts.
Learning the business environment of other countries is an important task for those looking to export their products to new markets. Foreign countries provide vast opportunities for growth and allow companies of all sizes to reach new customers. However, each market filled with opportunities also presents challenges for businesses. There are many resources for small companies that make the transition into a foreign market much easier. Doug Barry recently sat down with Mike McGee, Senior U.S. Commercial Service Officer, to discuss the business environment of Burma (now known as Myanmar). To watch this interesting video on doing business in Burma, please see the posted video below!
For the first time in 25 years, the World Bank is considering sending financial aid to Burma. Following Burma's recent political and financial reforms, sanctions have been repealed against the nation in an effort to bring Burma back into the international community. Following this trend, the World Bank is preparing up to $85 million in grants to give to Burma for community-driven development programs. According to World Bank group president Jim Yong Kim, these grants are intended to build confidence in Burma's reform process, help in the World Bank's mission of eradicating poverty, and help to restructure Burma's current debt $397 million.
The Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) recently endorsed Burma to become the leader of the regional trade bloc beginning in 2014. This is a major milestone for the country, revitalized by a new civilian government that assumed power from a militaristic rule early in 2011. Economic growth in the nation has suffered in the past, due to inefficient government policies, corruption, and wide-spread poverty. However, since the new government came into power, there have been numerous reforms in order to promote economic growth within Burma.