Am­bas­sador talks black­list

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page - LUN MIN MANG lun­min­mang@mm­times.com

US Am­bas­sador to Myan­mar Scot Mar­ciel yes­ter­day said main­tain­ing sanc­tions was a “high cost” en­deav­our and no longer the right tool to pro­pel demo­cratic change.

US Am­bas­sador to Myan­mar Scot Mar­ciel yes­ter­day de­fended the de­ci­sion to purge the sanc­tions list, re­fer­ring to the em­bar­goes as no longer po­lit­i­cally ex­pe­di­ent and a con­straint on trade be­tween the two coun­tries.

“The cost of main­tain­ing sanc­tions is greater than that of eas­ing the sanc­tions,” he said, adding that the de­ci­sion had been thor­oughly weighed.

US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama made the sur­pris­ing an­nounce­ment last week that nearly all re­main­ing sanc­tions on Myan­mar would be lifted “soon”.

The US has im­posed eco­nomic sanc­tions against Myan­mar for nearly 20 years. The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion be­gan to un­ravel the black­list start­ing in 2012.

But the emer­gency or­der un­der­pin­ning the vast re­main­der of the sanc­tions has been re­newed an­nu­ally, in­clud­ing in May. Mr Obama pledged on Septem­ber 14 to lift the or­der.

Main­tain­ing eco­nomic sanc­tions against Myan­mar has been a “high cost” en­deav­our, Mr Mar­ciel said, adding that the em­bar­goes were im­posed in or­der to sup­port the coun­try’s demo­cratic tran­si­tion while it was un­der the bru­tal dic­ta­tor­ship of a then-mil­i­tary regime.

“The pres­ence of eco­nomic sanc­tion has dis­cour­aged in­vest­ments and trade [be­tween the two coun­tries],” he said.

He was un­able to elu­ci­date a time­line for the era­sure of the US Trea­sury De­part­ment’s Spe­cially Des­ig­nated Na­tion­als list. The SDN list in­cludes in­di­vid­u­als and busi­nesses that were for­merly con­sid­ered by the gov­ern­ment of the United States as slow­ing and thwart­ing demo­cratic progress.

“All of the 104 SDNs [in­di­vid­u­als and com­pa­nies] will be off the list when the sanc­tions are lifted,” Mr Mar­ciel said. “But drug king­pins will re­main.”

Elab­o­rat­ing the US gov­ern­ment’s ap­proach to the demo­crat­i­cally elected gov­ern­ment, Mr Mar­ciel said the fun­da­men­tal pol­icy of US en­gage­ment with Myan­mar will not change.

“Spe­cific tools will change,” he said.

“Tools such as GSP [Gen­er­al­ized Sys­tem of Pref­er­ences] are more help­ful” and ef­fec­tive now than the “tool” of sanc­tions, he said.

He added that the shift will sup­port “broad-based eco­nomic growth”, which in turn will fuel job cre­ation in the coun­try.

How­ever, fos­ter­ing the bi­lat­eral re­la­tion­ship does not yet mean a change in mil­i­tary-to-mil­i­tary ties.

“We are tak­ing a cau­tious, care­ful ap­proach to the mil­i­tary-to-mil­i­tary re­la­tion­ship,” he said.

Rights groups re­sponded to the sanc­tions an­nounce­ment by slam­ming the US gov­ern­ment as ca­pit­u­lat­ing po­lit­i­cal lever­age in favour of busi­ness in­ter­ests.

“The US clearly wants to be able to in­vest and com­pete in Myan­mar’s mar­ket of hu­man and natural resources and ben­e­fit strate­gi­cally with a strong eco­nomic part­ner­ship. They fear that re­strict­ing in­vest­ment through sanc­tions and re­port­ing re­quire­ments will put them at a com­pet­i­tive dis­ad­van­tage in the re­gion and jeop­ar­dise the ‘Pivot to Asia’,” said Daniel Aguirre, a le­gal ad­viser based in Myan­mar with the In­ter­na­tional Com­mis­sion of Ju­rists.

Trans­parency watch­dog Global Wit­ness has called for new safe­guards to be put in place on the no­to­ri­ous and abu­sive jade and gems industries so that the sanc­tions re­moval does not fur­ther line the pock­ets of Myan­mar’s mil­i­tary elite.

Mr Mar­ciel coun­tered that his gov­ern­ment will con­tinue to en­cour­age trans­par­ent and ac­count­able in­vest­ment in Myan­mar.

He added that the Myan­mar gov­ern­ment still has much work ahead of it in pro­mot­ing hu­man rights, rule of law, and peace and na­tional rec­on­cil­i­a­tion, as well as in fight­ing the il­le­gal nar­cotics trade and re­solv­ing the sit­u­a­tion in Rakhine State.

‘The cost of main­tain­ing sanc­tions is greater than that of eas­ing the sanc­tions.’ Scot Mar­ciel US am­bas­sador to Myan­mar

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