Myanmar, China to Promote Cross-Border e-Commerce Systems

By Nan Lwin 13 July 2020

YANGON—Myanmar and China plan to promote cooperation on digital economy and cross-border e-commerce systems to allow trade and economic activity to proceed smoothly during times of pandemic.

An online meeting was held on Thursday between the Mandalay Region government, the Myanmar Ministry of Commerce, the International Liaison Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (IDCPC) and the government of China’s Yunnan province. The meeting aimed to promote collaboration between Mandalay Region and Yunnan province in implementing bilateral agreements between the two countries, especially the promotion of digital economy and e-commerce.

According to a press release from the Chinese Embassy, Yunnan province will provide the training for cross-border e-commerce operators from Mandalay region to help export agricultural products such as rice, beef, bananas and pineapples to Yunnan, or to China’s domestic market through Yunnan.

International Liaison Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (IDCPC) Director Song Tao (right) and Vice Minister Guo Yezhou (left) attend an online meeting between China and Myanmar. / U Than Myint / Facebook

In May, the Myanmar government said it would launch a central e-commerce website before the end of this year as part of its plan to promote the use of digital platforms and drive economic growth. Myanmar’s COVID-19 Economic Relief Plan (CERP) also includes commitments to promote e-commerce as well as the use of digital and mobile platforms for payments and retail trade.

The meeting was attended by Union Minister for Commerce Dr. Than Myint, Mandalay Chief Minister Dr. Zaw Myint Maung, Director Song Tao of the IDCPC, Vice Minister Guo Yezhou, Chinese Ambassador Chen Hai and officials from Alibaba Group, the biggest Chinese multinational technology company specializing in e-commerce, retail, Internet related technologies.

The press release said the two sides also agreed to enhance the exchange of ideas and practical cooperation, such as strengthening agriculture through e-commerce, and the speedy implementation of relevant cooperation on agreements between Yunnan and Mandalay, and supporting the socioeconomic recovery of the two countries.

During Chinese President Xi Jinping’s trip to Myanmar earlier this year, Yunnan Province and Mandalay Region signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) establishing local cooperation under the framework of jointly implementing the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor (CMEC).

Mandalay plays a crucial role in the CMEC, which is itself a part of China’s ambitious grand infrastructure project known as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The 1,700-kilometer-long corridor will connect Kunming, the capital of China’s Yunnan province, with Myanmar’s major economic hubs, linking first to Mandalay in central Myanmar before branching east to Yangon and west to the Kyaukphyu Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in Rakhine State.

U Than Myint, the minister for commerce, attends the online meeting between China and Myanmar. / U Than Myint / Facebook

China also plans to build the Muse-Mandalay railway, which will be the initial phase of a strategic railway link—with a parallel expressway—from Kunming to Kyaukphyu, in addition to a separate road running through northern Myanmar, India’s northeastern states and Bangladesh under the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic Corridor (BCIM-EC).

As a part of the CMEC, Myanmar and China agreed to build cross-border economic cooperation zones in Kachin and Shan states. In the zones, China aims to focus on establishing import, export and processing zones, and the development of the e-commerce and trade, finance and tourism sectors.

In her opening message, Myanmar State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said Myanmar is implementing the e-government system to enhance administrative processes and turn the challenges posed by the pandemic into opportunities to provide public services via digital platforms.

“The government is working hard to place the e-commerce system into the hands of investors, businesses and members of the public as soon as possible,” Myanmar’s State Counselor said.

Cooperation on e-commerce systems for trade and economic ties between the two countries will not only allow them to function at their normal pace but also reduce expenditure, make financial management easier, expand market opportunities, and reduce time and labor for carrying out tasks, she said.

Dr. Zaw Myint Maung, the chief minister of Mandalay Region, during the online meeting between China and Myanmar. / U Than Myint / Facebook

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said she wished for the success of trade and business cooperation via the e-commerce system, expressing hope that it would overcome the challenges of the pandemic, and facilitate new tasks and progress to increase economic cooperation between the two countries.

In Myanmar, some Chinese online shopping platforms have already grabbed online shopping market share in major cities. During recent years, the eMyan online platform, owned by Tradelink Corporate—a Chinese company based in Jiegao of Ruili—have been extending their branches in Yangon and Mandalay.

In May, China’s Ant Financial Services Group, owned by Alibaba Group, announced it would invest US$73.5 million (100.24 billion kyats) in Myanmar’s leading digital mobile money company, Wave Money, to help to upgrade the technological capabilities and security of the country.

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