American Business Lobby to Host Exclusive Dinner with Aung San Suu Kyi

By The Irrawaddy 13 September 2016

RANGOON — When the US government relaxed sanctions on Burma’s state-run companies and banks but stopped short of lifting all sanctions in May this year, the US Chamber of Commerce was not pleased.

The American business lobby called for the US to “normalize” relations fully and introduce preferable trade terms to encourage export-led industries in Burma.

Now the US Chamber of Commerce is pressing harder—not with the US government this time, but with Burma’s State Counselor and Foreign Minister Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

In collaboration with the US-Asean Business Council, the US Chamber of Commerce is hosting a roundtable discussion, reception and dinner with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi at the Four Seasons Hotel on Thursday during her visit to Washington DC this week.

The invitation describes the dinner as a “unique opportunity” to learn about Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s priorities in government, the current state of US-Burma economic relations, and “how the US business community can best support Burma’s development.”

The invitation pins participation to sponsorship packages—variously costing US$7,500, $15,000 and $25,000—in which individuals or corporate entities gain an exclusive, “off the record” opportunity to engage the State Counselor and her entourage.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi will be in Washington DC on Wednesday and Thursday this week to meet with US President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, members of the US Congress and business leaders.

After the idea was floated by US officials at the beginning of the month, Barack Obama is anticipated to announce a further easing of US sanctions on Burma, although human rights groups have objected to further sanctions relief, and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is believed to be in favor of keeping targeted sanctions to maintain pressure on the military.

The US sanctions that remain largely target military-run enterprises, or businessmen with close links with Burma’s former military junta. A ban on importing Burmese jade and gemstones into the US also remains in place, as well as a ban on arms sales to Burma.

In their recent report—“Myanmar’s New Dawn: Opportunities for Aung San Suu Kyi and US-Myanmar Relations”—the Washington DC-based Center for Strategic and International Studies recommended that the US ease economic sanctions further.

“The US government should set realistic benchmarks that would make it possible for businesspersons who have reformed their business and social practices to graduate from the SDN list,” it says, referring to the list of over a hundred Specially Designated Nationals that US individuals and companies are still barred from doing business with, but who control a large chunk of Burma’s economy.