YANGON (Reuters) - The United States is expected to further ease sanctions against Myanmar during this week’s visit to the White House by leader Aung San Suu Kyi in recognition of recent reforms in the once isolated country.
U.S. National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said last week sanction relief would be a focal point of Suu Kyi’s visit on Wednesday and Thursday and the United States needed to make sure that Myanmar’s new government presented a “democratic dividend” to its people.
Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate and democracy icon, helped persuade the West to impose sanctions during her years as an opposition leader under house arrest. She is now seeking to strike a balance between showing her people the economic rewards of a democratic transition while keeping pressure on the generals for further reforms.
International investors are looking at whether Suu Kyi’s trip can help eliminate key obstacles to trade in Myanmar, which would enhance U.S. companies’ ability to operate there. Major U.S. companies, including the General Electric, Western Union Co, Gap Inc, and Coca-Cola have made business forays into the Southeast Asian country.
Here is an overview of U.S. sanctions on the former Burma:
- The remaining U.S. sanctions on Myanmar are the tightest among Western powers.
- More than 100 individuals and groups remain on Washington’s blacklist for Myanmar after President Barack Obama in May eased some restrictions on key state-owned banks and timber and mining companies.
- Many are on the blacklist due to ties to drug trafficking or money laundering.
- U.S. sanctions imposed on Myanmar over the past two decades can be terminated by Obama if he certifies to Congress that Myanmar has met key conditions set out in the 2003 Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act.
- Some investors expect Obama to recommend the reinstatement of the Generalized System of Preferences, a tariff program to boost economies in some of the world’s poorest countries.
- Political watchers are paying close attention to Suu Kyi’s relationship with Congress members, who might not support further sanction easing.
- Despite expectation of further easing on U.S. sanctions, an arms embargo and trading restrictions on Myanmar’s jade mining sector are expected to remain in place.
Sources: U.S. Department of State, Herzfeld Rubin Meyer & Rose Law Firm Ltd, Berwin Leighton Paisner (Myanmar) Ltd
Reporting By Yimou Lee and Shwe Yee Saw Myint; Editing by Nick Macfie
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