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State Counselor Touts Myanmar’s ‘Final Frontier’ Market to Czech Investors

By Linn Thant 5 June 2019

PRAGUE—State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi on Tuesday encouraged Czech entrepreneurs to invest in Myanmar, saying the country’s economy has great potential in several sectors. She made the remarks during a speech to the Czech-Myanmar Business Forum at Černín Palace, the Prague headquarters of the Czech Foreign Ministry.

“I invite all those present to come and visit and see first hand what Asia’s final frontier market has to offer you and your business. I promise you will not be disappointed,” she said.

In the 1950s, Czechoslovakia was the third-biggest trading partner of Myanmar  and vice versa, and trade remained strong during the 1960s. By the 1980s, Myanmar had become one of the Central European country’s most important economic partners in Southeast Asia. Czechoslovakia was dissolved into the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1993.

The relationship remains strong. At present, the Czech Republic, which is a member of the European Union, is Myanmar’s 43rd-largest trading partner with bilateral trade amounting to around US$23.91 million (about 36.5 billion kyats). Trade has picked up in the past five years.

“Europe and Asia account for over 60 per cent of global GDP, with annual trade exceeding 1.5 trillion euros [2,581 trillion kyats]. Myanmar therefore looks forward to working closely with the Czech Republic as we seek to improve connectivity in all its forms between Asia and Europe,” she said.  “Trade, investment, development cooperation and people-to-people connections are all essential components of the already strong and resilient Czech-Myanmar partnership.”

Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš told the forum that Myanmar’s market offered a great number of business possibilities.

“Myanmar is a very interesting market with an abundance of opportunities in the fields where Czech companies stand out, such as the sectors of energy, aviation, automotive, agro and food industry or health. I encourage Czech businesses to use these opportunities,” he said.

“[Daw Aung San] Suu Kyi informed me that she has the ambition to have one of the biggest economic [growth rates] on the Asian continent. We see great potential in our economic relations,” the prime minister said.

“I am sure that an investment protection agreement between the European Union and Myanmar would be very beneficial for the investments of both sides,” Babiš said.

He said the new Myanmar Embassy in Prague would complement the Czech Embassy in Yangon and the new Honorary Consulate in Mandalay as good contact points for promoting and intensifying business exchanges. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was scheduled to inaugurate the new embassy alongside Czech Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček after the forum.

Also on Tuesday, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi paid homage to former Czech president Václav Havel at his tomb in Prague.

Speaking at the forum, she quoted a passage from Havel’s essay “The Anatomy of a Reticence”, saying, “Without free, self-respecting, and autonomous citizens there can be no free and independent nations. Without internal peace, that is, peace among citizens and between the citizens and the state, there can be no guarantee of external peace.”

She said these values are reflected in the newly launched Myanmar Sustainable Development Plan, describing it as “a comprehensive social, economic and environmental policy reform agenda that articulates our long-term development vision; that is, a vision of a peaceful, prosperous and democratic Myanmar.”

The comprehensive policy reform agenda provides a unifying and coherent roadmap for future reforms while reflecting Myanmar’s commitment to the 2030 Agenda and the country’s determination to do its utmost to promote the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, she added.

After the embassy opening, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was due to meet with Czech President Miloš Zeman. During their meeting at Prague Castle they were expected to discuss bilateral cooperation on public health, education, politics, economics and trade.

The State Counselor was due to fly to Hungary on Tuesday evening.

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