UPDATE 1-U.S. business group heading to Myanmar to explore opportunities

Fri Feb 22, 2013 6:51pm EST

WASHINGTON Feb 22 (Reuters) - Fifty U.S. business executives will visit Myanmar next week to explore trade and investment opportunities in the resource-rich nation now that the United States has eased sanctions, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said on Friday.

"This delegation trip is an important milestone," Tami Overby, the chamber's vice president for Asia said in a statement. "We have made tremendous progress in normalizing economic relations between our countries. It is now time to take the relationship to the next level."

It will be the first major U.S. business delegation to go to Myanmar since President Barack Obama's historic visit to the country in November.

It will include representatives of companies from agribusiness and the automotive, electronics, energy, retailing, telecommunications, and other sectors, the business group said.

MetLife, Cargill, Fedex, Chevron , General Motors, General Electric, Target , Honeywell and eBay are among the roughly two dozen companies making the trip.

The group will take part in a trade and investment symposium in Yangon that will bring together senior business executives and government officials from both countries.

The United States has softened sanctions on Myanmar and removed a ban on most imports from the Southeast Asian nation in response to the country's democratic reforms.

Washington relaxed sanctions on four large banks in Myanmar on Friday, allowing them access to the U.S. financial system.

The Treasury Department issued a general license to the Myanma Economic Bank, Myanma Investment and Commercial Bank, Asia Green Development Bank and Ayeyarwady Bank.

A general license eases restrictions and lets the banks deal with U.S. citizens and companies, but leaves sanctions laws on the books, giving Washington leverage should Myanmar start to backslide on reforms.

Obama was the first American president to visit the country.

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