Myanmar will be able to export about 5,000 products to the United States duty-free thanks to a new designation under the Generalized System of Preferences trade program, a US official said yesterday.
The change, set to take effect on 13 November, will help the Myanmar government create jobs and reduce poverty in a country where per capita income is estimated at $1,280, the official said.
The designation came as Myanmar’s State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi met President Barack Obama at the White House yesterday.
As Daw Aung San Suu Kyi arrived at the White House, Obama issued a statement saying he would reinstate Myanmar to the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), which provides duty-free treatment for goods from poor and developing countries.
Obama said Myanmar’s progress is not complete, but is on right track.
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi arrived in Washington DC yesterday and soon met with several top US leaders. The State Counsellor began with breakfast with Vice President Joe Biden at his residence, and following breakfast, met with President Barack Obama in the Oval Office at the White House.
After meeting with President Obama, she was scheduled to have lunch with US Secretary of State John Kerry at Blair House, the president’s guest house that is located across the street from The White House. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi will be staying at the Blair House during her trip to Washington, D.C.
Blair House has served as the home away from home for visiting chiefs of state, heads of government, and their delegations since 1942.
On Wednesday evening, the State Counsellor will enjoy a VIP tour of the Lincoln Memorial, one of Washington’s most important landmarks, and the site of Martin Luther King’s 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech. Her day will conclude with a dinner at the Myanmar Embassy.
Daw Aung Sun Suu Kyi last visited Washington in 2012 when she was still opposition leader. On that occasion, she was presented with the Congressional Gold Medal, the legislature’s highest civilian honor, which she had been awarded in 2008 while under house arrest. Her current visit to Washington is a major milestone in her transition from heroine of Myanmar’s democracy struggle to a national leader focused on economic growth for her country.
There were positive indications from The White House yesterday that remaining sanctions would be lifted.
Obama said yesterday the United States was prepared to lift sanctions on Myanmar “soon” and that democratic progress in the country was incomplete but on the right track.
During a meeting with Myanmar’s Daw Aung San Suu Kyi at the White House, Obama said the US moves would give incentives to businesses to invest in the Asian country.
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, visiting the White House for the first time since her party won a sweeping victory in last year’s election, said it was time for all sanctions that hurt her country economically to be lifted.
Myanmar was removed from GSP benefits in 1989 following pro-democracy uprisings a year earlier that were suppressed by the ruling military junta.
The United States eased some sanctions against Myanmar earlier this year to support political reform but maintained most of its economic restrictions with an eye toward penalizing those it views as hampering the democratically elected government.
With Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in Washington, officials in Myanmar said the government there was making a push to overhaul rules on new foreign investment this week.
New investment approvals have fallen since Daw Aung San Suu Kyi took power in April and some businesses and investors have criticized her for failing to prioritize the economy.
Separately, a group of 46 non-governmental organizations circulated a letter they wrote to Obama on Monday expressing concern about reports of plans to ease sanctions on Myanmar.
The State Counsellor will continue her efforts to focus on economic development for her country on Thursday evening, when she will meet with major players in the American business community at a dinner where participants have paid as much as $25,000 per table.—GNLM