UMFCCI Calls for Complete End to US Sanctions

By Thet Swe Aye 26 February 2013

RANGOON — The president of Burma’s chamber of commerce called on Washington to lift all remaining sanctions after signing a cooperation agreement with US counterparts on the first day of a visit by one of the largest American business delegations ever to visit the country.

A memorandum of understanding was signed on Monday in Rangoon between the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (UMFCCI) and the US Chamber of Commerce, aiming to boost investment and economic cooperation between the two countries.

It came on the first of a five-day visit by over 50 executives from US companies, the first major delegation to visit Burma since President Barack Obama’s historic visit last November.

Win Aung, the president of the UMFCCI, said lifting remaining sanctions was necessary for “the benefit of the majority of Burmese people.”

“We are in urgent need of advanced scientific and industrial technology, business affairs management capacity, management expertise and market access, which you all possess extensively,” he said.

However, the agreement has sparked controversy, since Win Aung is still considered a “crony” by the US government, reflecting the difficult balance Washington must strike as it seeks closer economic relations with Burma.

The US is currently ranked 13th in foreign investment in Burma, according to the country’s Directorate of Investment and Company Administration. As it tries to move up the rankings, it finds itself dealing with many individuals who had previously fallen under its sanctions regime.

US Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs Jose Fernandez, who was part of the delegation, said the US government was dedicated to doing everything in its power to encourage corporate responsibility.

“We want US companies to invest here in a socially responsible manner,” he said.

The delegation, which includes representatives from Chevron, General Motors, Target Corp., ConocoPhillips, Caterpillar, General Electric International, Honeywell and eBay, traveled to Naypyidaw on Tuesday to meet with government ministers.

Last week, the US government allowed its companies to transact with four Burmese banks, the state-owned Myanma Economic Bank and Myanma Investment and Commercial Bank, and the privately owned Asia Green Development Bank and Ayeyarwady Bank.

According to Win Aung, the UMFCCI has signed over 100 MoUs with overseas business chambers of commerce and business associations.