U.S. to lift sanc­tions ‘soon’ in Myan­mar, Obama says

Baltimore Sun - - NATION & WORLD - By Matthew Pen­ning­ton

WASH­ING­TON — Pres­i­dent Barack Obama said Wed­nes­day that the U.S. is lift­ing eco­nomic sanc­tions and restor­ing trade ben­e­fits to for­mer pariah state Myan­mar as he met with Aung San Suu Kyi, a one-time po­lit­i­cal pris­oner who is now the na­tion’s de facto leader.

Obama hailed a “re­mark­able” trans­for­ma­tion in the coun­try, also known as Burma, which spent five decades un­der op­pres­sive mil­i­tary rule.

Suu Kyi’s party swept his­toric elec­tions last Novem­ber, and the visit by the 71-year-old No­bel Peace Prize lau­re­ate, deeply re­spected in Wash­ing­ton, is a crown­ing oc­ca­sion in the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s sup­port for Myan­mar’s shift to democ­racy, which the ad­min­is­tra­tion views as a ma­jor for­eign pol­icy achieve­ment.

The U.S. has eased broad eco­nomic sanc­tions since po­lit­i­cal re­forms be­gan five years ago and Obama has vis­ited the coun­try twice. But the U.S. has re­tained more tar­geted re­stric­tions on mil­i­tary-owned com­pa­nies and of­fi­cials and as­so­ciates of the for­mer rul­ing junta.

U.S. firms and banks have re­mained leery of in­volve­ment in one of Asia’s last un­tapped mar­kets.

“The United States is now pre­pared to lift sanc­tions that we have im­posed on Burma for quite some time,” Obama said as he sat along­side Suu Kyi in the Oval Of­fice. He said it was “the right thing to do” to en­sure Myan­mar ben­e­fits from its tran­si­tion.

Asked by a reporter when sanc­tions would be lifted, Obama said “soon.”

Suu Kyi con­curred it was time to re­move all the sanc­tions that had hurt the econ­omy. She urged Amer­i­cans to come to the coun­try and “to make prof­its.”

Con­gres­sional aides said that Suu Kyi re­quested the re­moval of the na­tional emer­gency with re­spect to Myan­mar — the ex­ec­u­tive or­der au­tho­riz­ing sanc­tions that has been re­newed an­nu­ally by U.S. pres­i­dents for two decades.

The Trea­sury Depart­ment said that Obama’s de­ci­sion will be legally ef­fec­tive when he is­sues a new ex­ec­u­tive or­der to ter­mi­nate the emer­gency.

A U.S. of­fi­cial said that 111 Myan­mar in­di­vid­u­als and com­pa­nies will be dropped from a Trea­sury black­list and re­stric­tions will be lifted on new in­vest­ment with mil­i­tary and on the im­ports of ru­bies and jade.

But penal­ties in­tended to block the drug trade and to bar mil­i­tary trade with North Korea would still ap­ply, as would a visa ban bar­ring some for­mer and cur­rent mem­bers of the mil­i­tary from trav­el­ing to the United States.

The of­fi­cial and aides spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity.

The U.S. Cham­ber of Com­merce hailed the an­nounce­ment as “his­toric.” But hu­man rights groups say there are rea­sons for re­tain­ing sanc­tions. Mil­i­tary abuses con­tinue in eth­nic mi­nor­ity re­gions and Ro­hingya Mus­lims re­main dis­placed by sec­tar­ian vi­o­lence and de­nied cit­i­zen­ship.

MICHAEL REYNOLDS/EPA

Aung San Suu Kyi and Pres­i­dent Barack Obama chat Wed­nes­day in the Oval Of­fice.

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