Government Eases Trade Restrictions

By Kyaw Hsu Mon 30 November 2016

RANGOON — Burma’s government has announced a plan to ease trade restrictions on joint ventures between local business people and foreign investors, U Yan Naing Tun, director general of the Ministry of Commerce, told The Irrawaddy.

Seven months after the National League for Democracy government came to power, the commerce ministry made two trade announcements on Nov. 22. The first, effective the same month, said that foreign companies may operate joint ventures with local companies to trade fertilizer, seeds, pesticides and hospital equipment. As of July, building materials may be traded in the same manner.

With a view to facilitate and boost trade, the ministry also revoked regulations which had limited spending by foreign investors beyond the amount of foreign currency brought into the country.

“We’ve been preparing to ease some trade restrictions [put in place] under the previous government, after suggestions by the World Trade Organization and World Bank,” U Yan Naing Tun said.

“Joint venture companies can now work more easily with their money, without limitations like before,” he said.

In past, investment by foreign businesses in these sectors was limited to the amount of money that they had brought legally to Burma.

Dr. Soe Tun, chairman of the Automobile Dealers Association and the vice chairman of the Myanmar Rice Federation, said that he welcomes the announcement.

“For joint venture companies, there were problems for foreign investors, as they were always trying to work indirectly, due to the government’s former restrictions on accepting a limited amount of money. Now it’s more transparent,” he said.

On Nov. 22 the ministry released a notification saying that it would no longer set the prices for commodities when issuing licenses for exports and imports, but instead would approve licenses according to prices and values quoted in invoices and sale contracts.

The notification said that the ministry would take legal action against the counterfeiting of these documents if business entities attempted to evade taxes.

Concerned departments will carry out these checks in line with international procedures on prices quoted in the licenses they have approved.

“The customs department will check whether these are accurate, and then they will levy the taxes, too,” U Yan Naing Tun said of company invoices.