US Ambassador hopes easing of US sanctions will help ‘boost economy’

20 May 2016
US Ambassador hopes easing of US sanctions will help ‘boost economy’
US Ambassador Mr Scot Marcel, centre, talking to reporters. Photo: Mizzima

During a press conference at the US Embassy today in Yangon, US Ambassador Mr Scot Marcel discussed the intentions behind Washington’s decision announced this week to ease US sanctions on Myanmar.
The following are extracts from his discussions with the media:
US Ambassador Mr Scot Marcel:
The renewal of the sanctions authority but also some significant adjustments. And this is in keeping with our long standing approach of trying to use sanctions policy to promote and support democratic transition in this country and reforms. And, as you know, when the reforms began, back in 2011, 2012, we suspended many of the sanctions and all of the sanctions that were directed against the overall economy and left only the very targeted sanctions, specially the nationals list and the sanctions on jade and rubies.
So what was done this week was a renewal of the overall authority which is necessary to maintain the sanctions in all, but also significant adjustments particularly to ease problems in the financial sector – we heard a lot about how our sanctions were having the unintended impact of limiting the financial transactions through the financial sector, which hurts the economy. That was not the intent.
So we took some steps to try to ease that. And then we also removed from the special designated national list seven state-owned companies that now report to the civilian-controlled government, because they are now under control of the democratically-elected government.
And there were a number of other steps taken based on the need to make things clearer for business people so they wouldn’t have to spend so much time to decide what is allowed and what is not, and to facilitate just normal every day business. Again, the goal of the sanctions was not to impede that normal every day business.
So the hope is with these changes we will boosting support for the overall economy, and for the new government, while also maintaining in place some incentives in the form of specially designated national list for more support for the reform. That is the intent. We are very committed to doing what we can to help this government get the economy going, create jobs and opportunities.
Mizzima: It is found that some relevant conditions in the overall intentions regarding to the Myanmar economy upon your some removals from the SDN list, but some sanctions still remain. What would you say is the main message from the US government to the Myanmar government?
US Ambassador Mr Marcel:
The sanctions, they were put in place over different times over the years, sometimes by the (US) administration, sometimes by Congress. The one thing that meshes them all is they were put in place to support a transition to democratic rule, and with that, of course, improve the human rights record.
So as there has been progress towards that democratic rule, we have seen on a number of occasions, move to adjust and ease the sanctions in response to progress. We think it is important when there is significant progress to show responsiveness to that. And now that you have an election that has produced a democratically elected government, I think most people would agree the democratic transition still is not complete but there has been significant progress, and it is critical to respond to that positively but also to show support for the new government which clearly wants to build relations.
So the basis remains the democratic transition and progress on human rights overall. We’ve seen some significant progress on that and if that continues we will continue to review the sanctions.
I think a couple of things. One is that as I said in the end what we care about is doing what we can to support Myanmar’s success as a peaceful, stable and increasingly prosperous democratic nation. Obviously now we have a new elected government, and we are strong supporters of that new government. I think it is clear that an effective financial sector, like anywhere, is critical to the economic success, so we would love to see the financial sector grow, develop, and be a source of economic stability and growth. So that is certainly our hope.
Again, we are not telling the banks what to do, we would welcome the US banking sector in, and the recent announcement was designed precisely to make is easier for the banking sector to develop, and to do its job of fuelling that kind of growth.