Myanmar parliament approves foreign investment bill

YANGON Thu Nov 1, 2012 8:05am EDT

Myanmar's President Thein Sein talks during his first news conference since his re-appointment as head of the ruling party Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), at the presidential palace in Naypyitaw October 21, 2012. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun

Myanmar's President Thein Sein talks during his first news conference since his re-appointment as head of the ruling party Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), at the presidential palace in Naypyitaw October 21, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Soe Zeya Tun

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YANGON (Reuters) - Myanmar's parliament approved a foreign investment bill on Thursday and lawmakers expect it to be signed into law quickly by the president since his office had come up with wording that helped end a dispute over certain clauses.

The bill had passed back and forth between the legislative and executive branches since March in a tussle involving a government eager to attract foreign investment, tycoons determined to protect their monopolies, and small businesses keen not to be shut out.

"It was approved, together with the amendments proposed by the president," one lawmaker told Reuters, asking not to be named. "So you can be sure that the president will sign it once it is sent to his office in a few days."

Earlier, a member of a parliamentary committee that held an emergency meeting in October to discuss the legislation provided some details on the amendments that had made passage possible.

A clause requiring foreign investors to provide at least 35 percent of start-up capital in a joint venture with local partners had been dropped, he said, asking not to be named.

"Now it has been changed to 'the participation ratio of the joint venture is only to be decided by local and foreign partners'. It means anything they both agree," he said.

Another controversial provision stipulated that foreigners could only own 50 percent of a joint venture in certain sectors deemed sensitive.

"Now it has been decided not to mention this ratio in the Foreign Investment Law since it can sting foreign investors. Instead, the ratio will be mentioned only in the relevant rules and regulations, and only if necessary," the committee member said.

"These changes were initiated by the president, so I am sure he will sign the bill when it is sent to him," he added.

President Thein Sein took office in March 2011 at the head of a quasi-civilian government that brought almost 50 years of military rule to an end.

He has undertaken economic and political reforms that have persuaded Western countries to suspend sanctions and prompted an upsurge of interest in the country by multinational firms, who see potential in its abundant resources and primitive economy.

(Editing by Alan Raybould and Jeremy Laurence)

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