Moving to encourage reform in Myanmar ahead of a landmark trip by President Barack Obama, the United States has scrapped a nearly decade-old ban on most imports from the long-isolated nation.
The world’s largest economy will open up to products from the country with the exception of gems, a sector seen as a major driver of corruption and violence.
Mr. Obama on Monday will become the first sitting U.S. President to visit Myanmar, making a trip that just years ago would have been considered unthinkable.
The administration issued a waiver on the import ban, which was imposed by Congress in 2003, and the law remains in place if officials decide to resume the sanctions. The U.S. move could bring major growth to Myanmar’s garment industry, as the United States was once the main buyer of clothes made in the low-cost nation. Total U.S. imports from Myanmar hit a high of $470 million in 2001. The Obama administration earlier gave the green light for U.S. companies to invest in oil and gas in Myanmar, despite Aung San Suu Kyi’s warnings that the sector is rife with abuse, although the opposition leader later played down the rift.
The U.S. steps follow the European Union, Canada and Australia, which have suspended virtually all sanctions on Myanmar. Japan has forgiven $3.8 billion of Myanmar’s debt — AFP