In what has been described as a significant milestone in the history of US-Myanmar relations, the first Myanmar consulate on the west coast of the United States was officially opened in Los Angeles on May 2.
The opening of the consulate in downtown Los Angeles at 3435 Wilshire Boulevard (Suite 1590) will further strengthen the relationship between the US and the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, said a press release issued to mark the occasion by the Network of Myanmar American Association (Net.MAA).
The Mayor of Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, Mr Michael Antonovich, presented a welcome scroll to U Kyaw Tin, Myanmar’s permanent representative to the United Nations in New York, and a commemorative plaque to U Aung Kyaw Zan, the first Myanmar consul-general to serve on the US west coast. The celebrations continued that evening with a gala dinner attended by more than 200 officials and business leaders from both countries.
The US-Myanmar exchange and gala dinner, organised by the Network of Myanmar American Association, Aung Zay Media and the Myanmar Gazette, took place at the Hilton Universal Hotel. The dinner marked the first time that community, private and government sector representatives have come together to learn and exchange information on culture, tourism, the social-political climate and investment between the United States and Myanmar. Several Federal and California lawmakers attended the event, the press release said.
U Kyaw Tin reiterated Myanmar’s determination to invigorate bilateral relations and bolster economic ties with the US. He said the opening of consulate reflected the engagement and encouragement of the US for the reform process in Myanmar.
U Aung Kyaw Zan, the newly appointed consul general in Los Angeles, said the historic milestone reflected the blossoming of Myanmar-US relations during the past four years. He expressed a heartfelt commitment to serve the growing population of Myanmar in the US, numbering about 250,000, as well as all Americans interested in learning more about Myanmar.
In a lively panel discussion with Mr Jonathan Karp, executive director of the Asia Society Southern California, Daw Khine Khine Nwe, joint general secretary of the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry and a member of the Myanmar Investment Commission, said many businesses in Myanmar were embracing corporate social responsibility. Daw Khine Khine Nwe said the MIC has been encouraging foreign investors to practice socially and environmentally responsible business conduct.
Daw Khine Khine Nwe said that social responsibility is part of Myanmar culture and expressed the desire and preference of the Myanmar business community for investment from the US and other Western countries. She said the US decision to ease sanctions had not greatly helped Myanmar because they had been suspended and made subject to an annual review. This had resulted in many US companies adopting a wait and see attitude about investing in Myanmar, she said.
“If the US government is really serious about helping Myanmar, then sanctions must be totally lifted,” Daw Khine Khine Nwe said.
In 2013, the year after President Barack Obama became the first serving US president to visit Myanmar, the two countries signed a trade and investment framework agreement to bolster commercial ties.
The US Government encourages responsible investment in Myanmar as part of an overall strategy to support development and improve living standards for the Myanmar people, the press release said.
“US companies play a critical role in supporting broad-based, sustainable development in Myanmar, and therefore, are helping the country progress towards a more open, inclusive, democratic society,” said Daw Mimi Myint Hpu, external relations advisor to Net.MAA.