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Mitchell says US keeping some sanctions


Derek Mitchell, the new US ambassador to Burma, has reaffirmed the importance of keeping some US trade sanctions in place to encourage further and quicker reforms.
 
Derek Mitchell speaks at the US embassy in Rangoon on Friday. Photo: Mizzima
Derek Mitchell speaks at the US embassy in Rangoon on Friday. Photo: Mizzima
“We have said in the past, and I have said, that we endorse continuing to keep in place many of the authorities – the sanctions authorities – in Congress,” Mitchell said during a press conference on Friday in Rangoon. He is the first US ambassador assigned to Burma in more than two decades.

The US Congress is expected to extend trade and certain other sanctions this week, after removing key investment sanctions on July 11.

Keeping key trade sanctions, said Mitchell, is “an insurance policy for the future in case things reverse.”

“We're talking about a rapid process. It's only really been a little over a year and there are still some questions about the future,” he said, adding that the trade import ban could be revisited later if the reform process continues.

A US Senate finance committee on Wednesday backed a three-year extension on the ban on importing goods made in Burma. President Obama has the power to rescind the sanctions if events warrant, officials said.

Mitchell said that suspension of investment restrictions is “done according to traditional US corporate principles and values” and could serve the long-term interests of the Burmese people by establishing the values of transparency.

Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi lobbied key US Sen. Mitch McConnell last week to work to remove more sanctions to aid the Burmese people.

Derek Tonkin,writing on the Network Myanmar website, said: "The news that the Senate Finance Committee is recommending the renewal for three years of the total ban on imports from Myanmar undermines recent statements by US officials that the US was moving away from 'blunter' generalised sanctions to more 'targeted' measures. Over 80 per cent of Myanmar exports in the run-up to the ban imposed by the 2003 Burma Freedom and Democracy Act were in the labour-intensive industry of garment manufacture. Suu Kyi is known to support such industries and it remains to be seen whether her recent contact with Sen. Mitch McConnell, who had earlier claimed rather improbably that she supported the renewal of the ban, will have any effect."

However, Suu Kyi has warned foreign companies to be cautious in investing in the oil and gas industries, which would require working with the state-run Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE), which she said lacks accountability and transparency. Doing deals with MOGE is the only way to gain access to energy resources. It just announced it was offering exploration rights for oil and gas in more than 20 offshore blocks, and many foreign companies are now expected to take part in energy development.

Recognizing concerns over corruption, transparency and human rights abuses in Burma, the Obama administration said it would require U.S. companies that invest in the country to give detailed reports on their investments to set a standard for transparency.

The administration has stipulated that U.S. companies must file regular reports on their investments in the country. Any U.S. legal person, which includes individuals and entities, engaging in investment that total more than $500,000, will have to report annually to the State Department on their investment. Further, the reports will be required to include information on any payments totaling more than $10,000 to Burmese government entities, including state-owned enterprises, said a fact sheet.
Last Updated ( Monday, 23 July 2012 14:13 )  

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