US to re­new most Myan­mar sanc­tions with changes to aid busi­ness

Pakistan Observer - - INTERNATIONAL -

WASHINGTON—The United States plans to re­new the bulk of its sanc­tions against Myan­mar when they ex­pire next week, but will make some changes aimed at boost­ing in­vest­ment and trade, ac­cord­ing to sev­eral se­nior U.S. of­fi­cials and con­gres­sional aides.

An an­nounce­ment on ex­tend­ing much of the In­ter­na­tional Emer­gency Eco­nomic Pow­ers Act, or IEEPA, could come as soon as Tues­day ahead of a visit to the South­east Asian na­tion by Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry on May 22, of­fi­cials said.

The U.S. Trea­sury De­part­ment has sig­nif­i­cantly eased sanc­tions against Myan­mar by is­su­ing gen­eral li­censes that give com­pa­nies and in­vestors ex­emp­tions to sanc­tions tar­get­ing more than 100 in­di­vid­u­als and busi­nesses, in­clud­ing some of Myan­mar’s big­gest busi­ness play­ers.

U.S. of­fi­cials be­gan lift­ing trade and fi­nan­cial sanc­tions against the coun­try af­ter mil­i­tary lead­ers launched re­forms that led to a civil­ian govern­ment be­ing formed in 2011, be­gin­ning its trans­for­ma­tion from a half-cen­tury as an in­ter­na­tional pariah. In De­cem­ber, Trea­sury tem­po­rar­ily re­laxed trade re­stric­tions on the coun­try also known as Burma by al­low­ing all ship­ments to go through its ports and air­ports for six months.

This time, Washington will likely of­fer more gen­eral li­censes to spe­cific com­pa­nies, and take some peo­ple off Trea­sury’s list of “Spe­cially Des­ig­nated In­di­vid­u­als” tar­geted for sanc­tions, con­gres- sional aides and U.S. of­fi­cials said.

Kerry’s visit to Myan­mar is his first since the party of Aung San Suu Kyi, the coun­try’s No­bel lau­re­ate, swept to power fol­low­ing a land­slide elec­tion win in Novem­ber. A con­sti­tu­tion drafted by the coun­try’s for­mer mil­i­tary rulers bars her from be­com­ing pres­i­dent.

Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s open­ing to Myan­mar fol­lowed by its peace­ful tran­si­tion to an elected govern­ment is seen as one of his for­eign pol­icy achieve­ments. He has vis­ited there twice. But the ad­min­is­tra­tion also wants to main­tain lever­age on the coun­try to guard against back­slid­ing on re­forms and to press for im­prove­ment on hu­man rights.

By re­new­ing the le­gal frame­work for sanc­tions even as it eases some mea­sures, Obama will of­fer the pri­vate sec­tor more breath­ing room while main­tain­ing pres­sure on its mil­i­tary, which still holds sig­nif­i­cant po­lit­i­cal power. The sanc­tions had been due to ex­pire on May 20.

Washington has deep con­cerns about hu­man rights con­di­tions in pre­dom­i­nantly Bud­dhist Myan­mar, es­pe­cially vi­o­lence against eth­nic and re­li­gious mi­nori­ties in­clud­ing Ro­hingya Mus­lims.

Mem­bers of the U.S. Congress, from both par­ties, are watch­ing closely and could move to clamp down on Myan­mar them­selves if they think Obama is mov­ing too quickly. Last month, Sen­a­tors Cory Gard­ner and Ben Cardin, the Repub­li­can and Demo­cratic lead­ers of the For­eign Re­la­tions Asia sub­com­mit­tee, wrote to Kerry and Trea­sury Sec­re­tary Jack Lew ex­press­ing con­cern about rights, and ask­ing the ad­min­is­tra­tion to work with Congress to en­sure those con­cerns were ad­dressed. “Like you, we want to en­sure that the U.S. is Burma’s strong­est sup­porter on its road to democ­racy,” the sen­a­tors said in the let­ter, seen by Reuters.

U.S. of­fi­cials, speak­ing on con­di­tion of anonymity, said Aung San Suu Kyi sup­ported the ex­ten­sion of U.S. sanc­tions with some changes. Dis­cus­sions with her have fo­cused on how to prop­erly tar­get trade re­stric­tions so they do not hurt Myan­mar’s over­all econ­omy, but keep pres­sure on mil­i­tary­owned in­sti­tu­tions, they said.

“We are look­ing to take steps to demon­strate our sup­port for the new demo­crat­i­cally elected govern­ment of Burma ...and that we’re tak­ing the nec­es­sary steps to en­sure that they suc­ceed, that they can carry on eco­nomic devel­op­ments and re­forms,” a se­nior ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cial told Reuters.

“At the same time we want to do that in a smart, mea­sured way that gives us a range of op­tions and flex­i­bil­ity to re­spond ap­pro­pri­ately go­ing for­ward,” the of­fi­cial added. The United States is ea­ger to ex­pand re­la­tions with Myan­mar to help coun­ter­act China’s rise in Asia and take ad­van­tage of the open­ing of one of the world’s last “fron­tier mar­kets,” grow­ing but less de­vel­oped emerg­ing economie.— Reuters

TEHRAN: A woman looks at car­toons dis­played at the ex­hi­bi­tion on the Holo­caust.

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