US Businesses Eye Expanded Myanmar Investment

By Nan Lwin 1 October 2019

YANGON – As Myanmar’s government is making efforts to revive the economy through foreign investment, US companies say they are keen to expand their involvement, according to a leading trade body. 

The US-Asean Business Council in Yangon met on Monday and included representatives of 12 US companies and the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (UMFCCI). 

The US delegation, led by US Ambassador Scot Marciel, included representatives from Amazon, Google, Coca-Cola, Chevron, Chubb, Diageo, Ford, Jhpiego, MasterCard, Visa, Abbott and BowerGroupAsia. 

Ford and Coca-Cola already have taken a significant market share in Myanmar. Chevron has been investing in the energy sector for many years. 

The UMFCCI vice president, Dr. Maung Maung Lay, told The Irrawaddy that the US companies said they wanted to expand investment after seeing positive results in Myanmar. 

“I think we are starting to see the results of economic reform. However, we still need more changes to create a favorable investment environment for other investors,” he said. 

The UMFCCI said US companies were looking at investment in digital technology and vehicle production, and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).  

By July, the US was the 13th-largest source of foreign direct investment (FDI) in Myanmar with US$440 million (675.75 billion kyats) invested in 20 enterprises, according to the Directorate of Investment and Company Administration (DICA), the government’s investment agency.

In late August, Japan and the US said in a joint statement that they would promote responsible, ethical investment for economic development. They were marking the opening of the Myanmar-Japan-US forum in Yangon on fostering responsible investment. 

The president of the US-Asean Business Council, Alexander Feldman, said more investment from the US was needed to boost bilateral trade.  

US representatives reportedly focused on promoting investment, job opportunities, infrastructure and industrial development. 

The UMFCCI is inviting US investment in the telecoms, insurance, wholesale and retail sectors. 

The US Embassy said it was discussing how the private sector could support economic reform through the sharing of best practices and technology. The delegation is due to meet government and business leaders in Naypyitaw and Mandalay this week. 

Under the National League for Democracy, FDI has declined significantly as Myanmar’s image has been tarnished by the Rohingya crisis since 2017.

Since last year, the government has stepped up efforts to secure FDI to end a significant economic slowdown. 

The government has also introduced economic reforms, including the new companies law, to boost confidence among foreign investors. The Myanmar Sustainable Development Plan (MSDP) is a road map to promote equal development in social and economic sectors. The Myanmar Investment Promotion Plan (MIPP) aims to attract more than US$200 billion in investment from businesses over the next 20 years.

In September, the government announced US$4.1 billion in FDI. In the current fiscal year there has been a nearly 70-per-cent increase from the same period last year, but it is still short of the US$5.8-billion target.

The US imposed sanctions in July on Myanmar’s commander-in-chief, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, and other military leaders, barring them from entry to the country.

Last week, the US House of Representatives passed the Burma Act to advance efforts to hold Myanmar’s military leaders accountable for crimes against the Rohingya and other minorities. 

Dr. Maung Maung Lay said: “Many people worry about US sanctions on business. But the conditions are getting better. We hope there will be more negotiations and engagements with US investors in the future.”

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