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Political parties ask EU to grant Burma lower tariffs

New Delhi (Mizzima) – The ad hoc Group of Democratic Party Friends (GDPF), an alliance of 10 Burmese political parties and the All Mon Region Democratic Party, has asked the European Union to renew Burma’s Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) status.

Dr. Than Nyein, chairman of the National Democratic Force party, is one of 11 party leaders who are calling for the EU to renew Burma's status as a developing country that should receive lower tariffs. Photo: MizzimaA letter sent to the EU on Thursday said that if GSP status is renewed, small and medium-sized businesses throughout the country would have more economic opportunities.

Currently, the EU has granted GSP status to 176 developing countries, which includes lowering tariffs for those countries. The objective is to help developing countries expand the sale of their products to European countries and to promote the industrialization of developing countries, according to the EU’s Website.

‘If the EU grants GSP status to Burma again, ordinary people will gain great advantages’, said Dr. Than Nyein, the chairman of the National Democratic Force party. ‘Moreover, small and medium-sized businesses will get into the European market. If our goods are exempted from duty, we will have great opportunities’.

Democratic Party (Myanmar) chairman Thu Wai said that the EU is scheduled to review its GSP policies. ‘We sent the appeal letter because we heard that the EU will review its policy on underdeveloped countries around the world. If it is true, Burma is likely to be granted the GSP’.

The EU revoked Burma’s GSP status 15 years ago, he said, and as a result, Burma has missed many economic opportunities.
‘We urged the EU to grant the GSP to Burma again for the sake of the Burmese people’, Thu Wai said.

The letter also called on the EU to establish a direct relationship with the new Burmese government.

‘The local UN office recognizes our country’s requirements’, Than Nyein said.  ‘Our country’s requirements are more support from the international community, a more effective relationship with other countries, and advanced technology’.

Since 1996, the EU has imposed economic sanctions against Burma, an arms embargo, banned top Burmese military officers from traveling to Europe, cancelled all trade preferences, suspended all assistance to Burma except humanitarian aid and frozen top military officers’ assets in EU countries.

On March 8, the GDPF sent an open letter to the EU urging it to lift sanctions against Burma. Later, the EU lifted the ban on some ministers and others in the new Burmese government from entering EU countries. However, the EU warned that if the new government failed to make basic political changes, the ban would be reinstated.

The EU has repeatedly urged the Burmese government to grant amnesty to all political prisoners and to hold an all-inclusive political dialogue with pro-democracy opposition groups and ethnic groups .

In the letter, the GDPF also called on the new Burmese government to put in place changes urged by Western nations in order to encourage the EU to lift sanctions on Burma.

‘If the government wants to call Burma a democratic country, the government needs to allow people freedom of expression and freedom in forming associations. We will cooperate with the government to undertake such important steps’, Thu Wai said.

He added, ‘They are a new government. Recently, we saw some small changes, but not any major changes. With regard to amnesty for all political prisoners, human rights and democracy, I hope that the new government will gradually try to meet the demands of the EU and the United States one by one’.

The Group of Democratic Party Friends is made up of the National Democratic Force, the Democratic Party (Myanmar), the Democracy and Peace Party, the Union Democratic Party, the Shan Nationalities Democratic Party, the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party, the Wunthanu NLD, the Chin National Party, the Phalon-Sawaw Democratic Party and the National Political Alliances League.

Last Updated ( Saturday, 30 April 2011 14:35 )  

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