Myanmar aims for US duty free by 2014

Myanmar’s exporters stand to benefit from duty-free access to the United States by the end of the year under the US Generalized System of Preferences, experts say.

The Ministry of Commerce said Myanmar must prove that it has improved labour rights and its property laws in line with the international standards provided by foreign institutions.

Trade expert Eric Rose, who made a presentation to the United States Trade Representative (USTR) at a public hearing in Washington in June, said the last review of the GSP, intended to help companies in less developed countries enter one of the biggest consumer markets on earth, expired at the end of June and must be renewed.

Myanmar is one country whose exclusion from GSP will be soon be reviewed.

The process starts with the USTR office then moves to a sub-committee that makes recommendations to the president, who then decides whether to grant GSP status, Mr Rose said.

“We hope that Congress can extend the GSP program by the end of this year,” said Mr Rose, who is also director at law firm Herzfeld Rubin Meyer and Rose.

“The [US] business community

is very interested in renewing the GSP and granting [access] to

Myanmar,” he said. However, he added that American businesses were still tentative and making sure they do not make mistakes in coming to Myanmar.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) has reported that labour conditions – the original reason for Myanmar’s exclusion from the GSP system – have improved, and has recommended that sanctions be dropped. However, Mr Rose said ILO had also reported that forced labour still occurred in Myanmar, but added that he hoped the issue would be resolved in the next year.

Mr Rose added that intellectual property concerns are a huge issue in Myanmar since the legal framework dates to 1911 and does not include trademarks, patents and design acts.

U Maung Maung Lay, vice president of the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (UMFCCI), said US companies this year invested about US$243 million in Myanmar through August.

“But we hope there will more investment coming next year as many sanctions have been eased and Myanmar would like to be reinstated to the US GSP list at the end of this year,” said U Maung Maung Lay, who was part of a Myanmar delegation that attended the public hearing in Washington in June.

U Maung Aung, a consultant for the Ministry of Commerce, said that the garment sector had the greatest potential for expansion as more than half its total exports before the year 2000 had gone to the United States.

The Ministry of Commerce and other concerned ministries have already submitted to the USTR evidence on efforts to eradicate child labour in the products destined for export to the US, as well as on the environmental impact of the industry, he said.

U Win Kying, general secretary of the Myanmar Fisheries Federation, said, “This is a very important development for us. We have a chance to compete for market share.” It was important to produce as much as customers wanted, he said.

Source: Myanmar Times

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