Jade traders eye US

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page - CHAN MYA HTWE chan­myahtwe@mm­times.com

With the US lift­ing re­stric­tions on jade, Myan­mar traders are hop­ing to de­velop closer ties and gain some tech­ni­cal know-how.

IN ter­mi­nat­ing eco­nomic sanc­tions against Myan­mar on Oc­to­ber 7, the ex­ec­u­tive order signed by US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama has opened the way to the re­sump­tion of the jade and gems trade be­tween the two coun­tries.

The abo­li­tion of the In­ter­na­tional Emer­gency Eco­nomic Act ren­ders all re­lated US leg­is­la­tion null and void, in­clud­ing the ban on im­port­ing Myan­mar jew­ellery, jade and ru­bies, as well as on bank­ing and rev­enue trans­fer trans­ac­tions.

Free to ex­port to the United States and Europe, Myan­mar will no longer be tied solely to the Chi­nese mar­ket. An­a­lysts pre­dict a boost for an in­dus­try that has lately been in the dol­drums be­cause of a lack of in­ter­est among Chi­nese traders.

“We think the mar­ket will be bet­ter now that we have the op­por­tu­nity to trade with the West, and if traders can ex­port fin­ished prod­ucts openly and not through the black mar­ket,” said jade en­tre­pre­neur U Zaw Shan Lone. “We can pro­duce more fin­ished prod­ucts, which would be bet­ter for the coun­try. At present, the gems mar­ket is cold, but we hope ev­ery­thing will im­prove now that sanc­tions have been lifted,” he said.

The dis­ap­pear­ance of sanc­tions will also have im­me­di­ate and prac­ti­cal con­se­quences.

Ac­cord­ing to the sec­re­tary of the Myan­mar Gems and Jew­ellery As­so­ci­a­tion, U Tun Hla Aung, gem prices can now be quoted in US dol­lars as well as eu­ros at the Myan­mar Gem Em­po­ri­ums.

He added that Myan­mar would now be able to ex­port ru­bies and sap­phires to the United States, and ex­port more fin­ished jade prod­ucts rather than the raw jade.

Myan­mar will in­vite the Amer­i­can Gem Trade As­so­ci­a­tion (AGTA) to buy gems at the mid-2016 em­po­rium to be held next month, and will re­quest from them tech­ni­cal as­sis­tance, said U Win Htein, di­rec­tor gen­eral of the Depart­ment of Mines un­der the Min­istry of Nat­u­ral Re­sources and En­vi­ron­men­tal Con­ser­va­tion.

U Win Htein said the United States and other coun­tries could buy Myan­mar gems of­fi­cially from gem em­po­ri­ums, li­censed gems and jew­ellery shops, gems ex­po­si­tions at Mo­gok or­gan­ised by lo­cal res­i­dents, and in­ter­na­tional em­po­ri­ums.

He said the likely re­sults of the re­moval of sanc­tions would in­clude ac­quir­ing the right to sell in the United States and else­where and trans­fer­ring the funds thus gen­er­ated in a bank­ing sys­tem in­creas­ingly in­te­grated with in­ter­na­tional trade, thus im­prov­ing the gov­ern­ment’s tax base.

U Aung Kyaw Win, deputy chair of the Yangon Re­gion Gems and Jew­ellery En­trepreneurs As­so­ci­a­tion, said the gov­ern­ment should build on the US de­ci­sion by amend­ing ex­portim­port and tax poli­cies to strengthen its ex­port sec­tor. It was time to close down the il­licit routes by which Myan­mar gems were smug­gled to Thai­land, Sri Lanka, Hong Kong and In­dia, he said.

Talks have al­ready be­gun on ways of ex­pand­ing jade and gems sales.

U Aung Kyaw Win said new gov­ern­ment poli­cies should take into ac­count the needs of eth­nic en­trepreneurs wish­ing to trade in­ter­na­tion­ally. He called for the es­tab­lish­ment of vo­ca­tional train­ing schools to pro­vide en­trepreneurs with hu­man re­sources and the de­vel­op­ment of value-added, higher-priced gems and jew­ellery prod­ucts.

The Yangon Gems and Jew­ellery En­trepreneurs’ As­so­ci­a­tion has drawn up a mas­ter plan and sub­mit­ted it to the Min­istry of Nat­u­ral Re­sources and En­vi­ron­men­tal Con­ser­va­tion, as well as to the Cen­tral Bank and the min­istries of com­merce and fi­nance.

The plan en­vis­ages a 10-year project to im­prove the qual­ity of fin­ished prod­ucts. Dur­ing the first three years, 30 per­cent of raw ma­te­ri­als must be con­verted to fin­ished prod­ucts for ex­port, ris­ing to 50pc within five years, then 75pc and ris­ing to 100pc by the end of the plan pe­riod. The plan also pro­poses rec­om­men­da­tions to ease free trade, raise tax rev­enues and adopt anti-smug­gling mea­sures. The start date would be 2017.

“Un­less we have a pro­gram, we will not be able to turn raw ma­te­ri­als into fin­ished prod­ucts,” he said. The adop­tion of a gov­ern­ment pro­gram cov­er­ing jade, gems and pre­cious met­als backed by en­trepreneurs would help elim­i­nate il­licit trade in gems and jade, he said.

Trade im­prove­ment di­rec­tor U Aung Soe said the Na­tional Ex­port Strat­egy en­tailed long- and short­term pro­grams cov­er­ing the jade and gems sec­tors that would ease ex­port pro­ce­dures in the wake of the re­moval of sanc­tions. “The gems mar­ket will ex­pand, and trade will im­prove,” he said. “The Amer­i­can Gem As­so­ci­a­tion last week told us they wanted to buy and dis­trib­ute Myan­mar gems. For­eign buy­ers can at­tend the gems ex­hi­bi­tion and we are dis­cussing di­rect ex­ports with the Min­istry of Re­sources.”

Mak­ing the most of the big­ger in­ter­na­tional mar­ket would mean im­prov­ing de­sign and qual­ity.

“In­stead of sell­ing cheap badqual­ity jade to Thai­land, en­trepreneurs should study tech­niques for im­prov­ing qual­ity and gen­er­at­ing sales. We must be ready to com­pete in a more open mar­ket,” he said. – Trans­la­tion by Win Thaw Tar

and Khine Thazin Han

Photo: Aung Myin Ye Zaw

Jade traders are hop­ing that gain­ing ac­cess to the US mar­ket will help off­set the trade slow­down with China.

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