Proposed Vehicle Import Limits Dropped After Industry Outcry
By Kyaw Hsu Mon 5 January 2016
RANGOON — After fielding numerous complaints from industry stakeholders in recent weeks, the government has made a policy about-face, backing down on most of its plans to restrict Burma’s vehicle imports beginning this year.
The Ministry of Commerce last month made a controversial announcement detailing plans to tighten controls on the imported automobiles market, stating on Dec. 15 that importers would only be allowed to bring in private passenger vehicles manufactured in 2006 or later. In addition, buses, trucks and other vehicles were to be manufactured only between 2014 and 2016 to gain import approval.
The announcement prompted backlash from local vehicle importers who said the proposed restrictions would harm their business prospects, prompting the government to reconsider the plan.
At a meeting with automobile dealers and Ministry of Commerce officials on Tuesday, the two sides reached an agreement that will see the proposed import ban on private cars manufactured before 2006 dropped, as well as the limits on other vehicles like buses. A ban on importing automobiles manufactured in 2015 or 2016 with right-side steering columns will be enforced, however.
Myat Tun Kyaw, director of the Ministry of Commerce, said Tuesday’s discussion had proved fruitful.
“I heard after meeting with car dealers and officials, the dealers’ proposal was successful,” he said, declining to reveal more details about the agreement reached.
Soe Tun, chairman of the Myanmar Automobile Dealers Association, confirmed that Commerce Ministry officials had agreed to drop the most far-reaching aspects of the tightened car import policy at Tuesday’s meeting in Naypyidaw.
“They will allow importers to import all model cars, except 2015 and 2016 models that are not left-hand [steering columns],” Soe Tun said.
“The Transportation Department will also issue licenses for cars imported during 2015 as well,” he said, referring to an initial reluctance to give these vehicles the necessary permits, which prompted industry complaints last month.
The outcome of Tuesday’s meeting will mean that, with the steering column exception, imports of personal or commercial vehicles will again be unrestricted in 2016, according to Soe Tun.
“Everything is back to the normal situation,” he said.
Since Burma’s quasi-civilian government came to power in 2011, car import policies have been changed some 10 times, causing ongoing adjustment issues for many imported car showrooms, individual import dealers and other related businesses.
South Korean, Japanese, American, German and Chinese car dealers have all opened showrooms in the commercial capital Rangoon in recent years, as the city’s streets have become increasingly congested. Vehicle imports were long kept tightly restricted by Burma’s former military regime.