(Reuters) - Myanmar has drafted a new foreign investment law in a bid to lure international businesses and boost its fledgling economy after decades of isolation and Western sanctions.
The long-awaited investment regulations, which must pass parliament, and plans to float its kyat currency from April, are the most significant economic reforms under the year-old civilian government.
The United States and European Union are reviewing sanctions, which prohibit investment in many sectors of Myanmar’s economy. The government says the embargoes have stifled development and kept much of the resource-rich country in poverty.
Here is an overview of sanctions on the former Burma.
- The EU adopted a Common Position on Myanmar in 1996 to introduce what it calls “restrictive measures”, including a ban on the sale or transfer from the EU of arms or weapons expertise to Myanmar, or of any equipment that might be used for internal repression. It next reviews the sanctions in April.
- It restricts the export of equipment, or related financial or technical support, for the timber industry and mining of metals or gemstones, imports of which are also banned. EU firms are prohibited from entering into joint ventures with, or holding securities in, Myanmar firms in these sectors. It does not preclude investment in other areas, such as energy or tourism.
- EU members or firms are banned from providing aid, unless it supports democracy, good governance, conflict resolution, human rights, environmental protection or poverty alleviation.
- In February 2012, the EU suspended visa restrictions on 87 top Myanmar officials in response to political reforms, including the release of hundreds of political prisoners in January. Those individuals, their families and business associates remain subject to assets freezes.
- The EU said in January it would open a representative office in Myanmar later this year to manage aid programs and promote dialogue.
- It also announced a 150 million euro ($197 million), two-year development aid package, worth almost as much as the 173 million euros it has given Myanmar since 1996.
- The United States banned new investment in Myanmar by U.S. nationals or entities in 1997.
- The Burma Freedom and Democracy Act of 2003 banned all imports from Myanmar, restricted financial transactions or services and extended visa restrictions and asset freezes on financial institutions in the country and top government officials. It banned U.S. firms from doing business with Myanmar companies.
- In 2007, asset freezes were imposed on anyone deemed to be involved in human rights abuses and corruption, and anyone that had provided support to the former military regime.
- Congress enacted the Block Burmese JADE (Junta’s Anti-Democratic Efforts) Act in July 2008, which bans imports of gemstones to the United States and allows asset freezes and travel restrictions on those dealing in Myanmar gems.
- In January 2012, the United States said it would upgrade diplomatic ties with Myanmar by exchanging full ambassadors after a two-decade absence, in response to reforms.
- In February 2012, Washington announced a partial waiver of restrictions imposed on Myanmar under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. That allows it to support assessment missions and technical assistance by international financial institutions.
- Since October 2007, Australia has implemented sanctions against members of Myanmar’s leadership and their associates and supporters. They include financial sanctions, restrictions on financial transactions and visa and travel bans. It also has a long-standing ban on defense exports.
- Since 1988, Canada has banned exports of arms and all non-humanitarian goods to Myanmar and halted development assistance.
- In 2003, Myanmar was excluded from its Least Developed Country (LDC) market access initiative, which eliminates most duties and quotas on imports. It imposed restrictions targeting top regime members and the military, including visa bans.
- It broadened sanctions in 2007, banning investment in Myanmar by Canadian individuals or firms, prohibiting imports from the country, banning financial services to Myanmar and freezing assets of government officials or any businesses connected with the state.
JAPAN - Japan announced in February 2012 it would resume full development assistance to Myanmar after a nine-year freeze. It said infrastructure development was crucial and loans, which were halted in 1988, should resume to support rail, port and other big projects. It gave no timeframe.
NEW ZEALAND - Has no official sanctions on Myanmar but states it has no defense ties and screens all visa applications from Myanmar to prevent damage to its international reputation.
ASIA - Most Asian governments have favored a policy of engagement towards Myanmar and companies have invested freely, particularly those from Thailand, China, Singapore and India. The Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and its members have repeatedly called for Western sanctions to be lifted to help boost Myanmar’s economy.
Sources: Reuters; Council of the European Union; U.S. Department of State; Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade; Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada
Compiled by Martin Petty and Sinsiri Tiwutanond; Editing by Alan Raybould and Robert Birsel
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