In a move to reward Burmese President Thein Sein and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, the US administration is planning to announce its intention to remove certain – if not all– import bans on Burma, according to reports.
Aung San Suu Kyi, who will arrive in the US on Sunday, has urged the lifting of the import ban. The action, if it comes, would have to be done through Congressional legislation, which would prevent it from taking place prior to her visit, officials said, in light of the presidential election and other factors.
Thein Sein will visit the US at the end of the month, and the official announcement could come at that time, officials said, or earlier during Suu Kyi’s visit.
The move is being discussed by officials in the White House, state department and Congress, according to a report in the Financial Times (FT) on Friday.
Speculation is also ripe that Burma could be in the process of announcing another release of political prisoners, which might come during Suu Kyi’s 14-day tour or later during Thein Sein’s visit.
Western diplomats say the import ban removal would give the Burmese government a badly needed boost at a time when it is negotiating with Parliament to craft a long-range foreign invest law and help Thein Sein’s efforts to open up the economy after decades of isolation.
It also comes as the European Commission drafts a proposal to restore preferential trade access for Burma to EU markets, said the FT.
However, the president would only take such action if Congress – and, crucially, Suu Kyi – supported such a move, say Washington-based analysts.
Garments, footwear, frozen seafood and other food products – all employing relatively large work forces – were among Burma’s main exports to the west until sanctions kicked in 10 to 15 years ago.