* Myanmar president says he's 'very grateful' for US actions
* U.S. promise paves way for greater foreign investment
By Andrew Quinn
NEW YORK, Sept 26 Secretary of State Hillary
Clinton told Myanmar President Thein Sein on Wednesday that the
United States would take steps to ease the U.S. ban on imports
from the country, a major boon to the Southeast Asian nation as
it emerges from years of political and economic isolation.
"In recognition of the continued progress toward reform and
in response to requests from both the government and the
opposition, the United States is taking the next step in
normalizing our commercial relationship," Clinton told Thein
Sein in a meeting on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly
in New York.
"We will begin the process of easing restrictions on imports
of Burmese goods into the United States. We hope this will
provide more opportunities for your people to sell their goods
into our market," Clinton said.
Clinton's announcement marks a further step in the U.S.
rapprochement with Myanmar, which offers economic and strategic
benefits to both sides.
"We now have diplomatic relations at the ambassador level
and the people of Myanmar are very pleased with the easing of
economic sanctions by the United States," Thein Sein said at the
meeting, which took place at a New York hotel.
"We are very grateful for the actions of the United States,"
The U.S. Treasury Department last week removed individual
sanctions against Thein Sein, a 67-year-old former general who
emerged as the unlikely catalyst for a wave of reforms that were
unthinkable a year ago. The next step will remove more of the
restrictions that isolated his country for two decades, squeezed
its tattered economy and pushed it closer into China's orbit.
Congress has approved a bill that would allow President
Barack Obama to waive a ban on U.S. participation in providing
development loans from international financial institutions like
the World Bank to the former British colony also known as Burma.
But the move to end the U.S. import ban promises far larger
benefits, paving the way for greater foreign investment that
could create urgently needed jobs.
The European Union set the pace this month by agreeing to
grant Myanmar access to its Generalised System of Preferences, a
plan that allows poorer countries access to European markets
without quotas or duties.
Thein Sein's reformist, quasi-civilian government took
office in March 2011, ending five decades of military rule. It
has started overhauling Myanmar's economy, easing media
censorship, legalizing trade unions and protests and freeing
The United States has responded with diplomatic and economic
gestures, sending Clinton to Myanmar last year as the first U.S.
secretary of state to visit in more than 50 years, as well as
tentatively easing sanctions this year.