German delegation makes historic visit to Myanmar

A delegation of 150 German businesses, lead by German President Joachim Gauck, visited Myanmar last week in an attempt to bolster bilateral relations between the two countries.

The delegation, representing global firms such as Siemens, BMW and Deutsche Bank, discussed the prospect of local partnerships, investment strategies and introducing international corporate, labour and social practices.

The conference also marked the opening of the Delegation of German Industry and Commerce, the first from Europe to set up in Myanmar.

“Myanmar is a fast-growing economy. It is starting from a relatively low level, but it has opportunities,” said Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce or Deutscher Industrie- und Handelskammertag (DIHK) chief Volker Treier, adding that Germany had already established representative offices in the auto industry and in chemical engineering last year.

He said that if international companies are to invest in Myanmar, it is imperative the country set up a reliable legal framework, train qualified staff and install an integrated financial structure.

“German businesses are not the biggest risk-takers, but they come to stay. Making a fast profit and then leaving is not our way. We have a sustainable approach,” he said.

According to the Directorate of Investment and Company Administration (DICA), German investment in Myanmar amounts to some US$17 million per year, though Mr Treier said that continued economic reform in Myanmar would result in that figure ballooning into the billions of dollars in the coming years.

“The current [level of investment] is almost nothing from our point of view compared to other countries,” he said.

Udo Mohrstedt, president of photovoltaics firm IBC Solar, said that German firms would likely begin investing in Myanmar thanks to the EU Generalised System of Preferences (GDP), which was reinstated last year. He also said his firm would likely put plans forward to establish a factory in Myanmar pending meeting government officials.

“Our aim is to show our products and then [we] plan to build factories here, but first we must see clearly the intention of the government,” Mr Mohrstedt said.

During his visit last week German President Joachim Gauck met with local officials to complete a landmark deal to clear half a billion euro ($682 million) in debt owed by Myanmar.

As a part of the deal, Germany agreed to cancel half of the arrears owed to them by Myanmar in two phases, while rescheduling the remaining 542 million euros ($740 million) over the next 15 years.

Source: Myanmar Times

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