Myan­mar at los­ing end in bor­der trade dis­agree­ments: lead­ers

The Myanmar Times - Weekend - - Business - CHAN MYA HTWE chan­[email protected]­

MYAN­MAR must take steps to ne­go­ti­ate bi­lat­eral trade agree­ments with its neigh­bours to avoid volatil­ity in bor­der trade with China and India, as the con­se­quent losses for lo­cals can be huge.

“There is cur­rently no pre­cise pol­icy for bor­der trade. Ev­ery coun­try should have a pol­icy to deal with trade dis­agree­ments and volatil­ity. Right now, Myan­mar is on the los­ing end with lit­tle power to deal with trade is­sues,” said Dr Maung Maung Lay, vice chair of the Union of Myan­mar Fed­eral Cham­ber of Com­merce and In­dus­try.

“There is un­fin­ished busi­ness and no dis­cus­sion on how to pre­pare for fu­ture dis­agree­ments. Those in min­istry do not have the ca­pac­ity to han­dle bor­der trade is­sues. We need bet­ter lead­er­ship on this front,” he added.

Bor­der trade with China ac­counts for about 70 per­cent of all trade be­tween Myan­mar and its neigh­bours. It also in­volves high vol­umes of Myan­mar agri­cul­tural pro­duce. Al­most all Myan­mar maize is ex­ported to China, for ex­am­ple. Yet, there are no ex­ist­ing poli­cies or bi­lat­eral agree­ment deal­ing with trade dis­rup­tions or dis­agree­ments be­tween the two coun­tries.

This has re­sulted in fre­quent volatil­ity lead­ing to losses in Myan­mar. For ex­am­ple, more than 1500 fruit trucks were stranded at the Myan­mar-china bor­der be­tween Christ­mas and the new year due to the clo­sure of Kyin San Kyawt gate near Muse.

Kyin San Kyawt gate, which is about 10 miles from Muse’s 105th mile trade zone, was shut down by a Myan­mar mil­i­tary com­pany for se­cu­rity rea­sons on De­cem­ber 27. How­ever, lo­cal merchant as­so­ci­a­tions re­ceived no prior warn­ing or of­fi­cial no­tice, U Sai Myint Bo, chair of the Fruit Whole­sale Cen­tre at Muse trade zone told The Myan­mar Times.

Due to the dis­rup­tion in trade, Myan­mar traders are re­ported to have racked up losses amount­ing to K10 lakh per fruit truck. The 1500 trucks are loaded with do­mes­ti­cally pro­duced agri­cul­ture prod­ucts, such as wa­ter­mel­ons and cu­cum­bers.

The Kyin San Kyawt gate is a ma­jor ex­port route for Myan­mar wa­ter­mel­ons, cu­cum­bers, eels and crab. Ex­porters have to pay K 2600 in du­ties for a tonne of wa­ter­mel­ons traded. Around 400 trucks fer­ry­ing wa­ter­mel­ons and cu­cum­bers trade at the gate daily.

Last Novem­ber, an im­port ban on Myan­mar rice, su­gar and maize by China also led to a stand­still in trade. To avoid pay­ing high im­port tar­iffs on those com­modi­ties by the Chi­nese author­i­ties, the num­ber of traders in China re­sort­ing to buy­ing from il­le­gal routes has spiked in re­cent months, re­sult­ing in fre­quent bor­der checks and ar­rests, which cul­mi­nated in the ban.

As a re­sult, stock­piles of the sus­pended com­modi­ties ac­cu­mu­lated in ware­houses in Muse, lead­ing to losses for Myan­mar’s farm­ers and traders.

“The main thing is to have a sys­tem of trade at the bor­der with China. The gov­ern­ment should try to make agree­ments with China for agri­cul­tural prod­uct ex­ports as well as with India, for bean ex­ports. Trade with both coun­tries is im­por­tant to us as it has a direct im­pact on our econ­omy and the liveli­hoods of our farm­ers. It should be a pri­or­ity for the gov­ern­ment,” said Dr Soe Tun, vice chair of Myan­mar Rice Fed­er­a­tion.

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