U.S. inks new trade pact with Yangon

AFP-JIJI

The U.S. and Myanmar struck a trade agreement Tuesday as the former pariah state undertakes economic reforms and seeks greater American investment.

The Trade and Investment Framework Agreement is aimed at promoting bilateral dialogue and cooperation on trade and investment issues, the United States Trade Representative said in a statement.

“As part of this dialogue, the two sides will work together to identify initiatives that support the ongoing reform program and promote inclusive development that benefits the people of Burma, including the poorest segments of its population,” the USDR said, using the former name of Myanmar.

The pact was signed by acting U.S. Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis and Myanmar’s deputy commerce minister, Pwint San.

The agreement came a day after U.S. President Barack Obama threw his support behind Myanmar President Thein Sein in his drive toward reforming the country that had been under military rule, during the first White House visit in almost 50 years by one of its leaders.

Thein Sein, who took office as a nominal civilian in 2011, has surprised even cynics by freeing hundreds of political prisoners, reaching ceasefires with ethnic rebel groups, easing censorship and letting long-detained opposition icon Aung San Suu Kyi enter Parliament.

The Obama administration suspended most sanctions on Myanmar last year and is hoping the trade agreement will show the country tangible benefits for embracing reform. Marantis highlighted that economic reforms and trade were mutually supportive.

“The United States supports reforms that lay the foundation for a peaceful and prosperous future,” Marantis said. “Stronger institutions, transparency and rule of law create stronger foundations for commercial transactions, trade and investment.”

The new deal addresses continuing U.S. and international concerns about labor rights in the impoverished country, the USTR said. Under the pact, the United States will seek to work with Myanmar authorities to achieve better protection of worker rights.