US group touts roles in support of multinationals

Local companies ought to eye opportunities to supply large American multinationals with the goods and services they need to invest in the region, according to US-ASEAN Business Council president Alexander Feldman.

American officials hope to discuss business opportunities when a Myanmar delegation led by Minister for the President’s Office U Soe Thein visits New York in September, he said at a Yangon press conference on August 1.

“We hope many Myanmar companies will be suppliers and service providers to large American multi-nationals, not only here in Myanmar but also around ASEAN,” he said.

The US-ASEAN Business Council visited Myanmar from July 28 to August 1 in a bid to introduce American firms to local opportunities. The delegation also met with senior leaders including President U Thein Sein, speaker Thura U Shwe Mann and opposition politician Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

Discussions focused on supporting economic reforms, digital and physical infrastructure development, fostering increased human capacity and supporting Myanmar’s position as ASEAN chair and its regional role, said US-ASEAN Business Council public relations director Anthony Nelson.

Although engagement with the United States has been a hallmark of President U Thein Sein’s ongoing reforms, some say American multinationals have been relatively slow setting up shop in Myanmar. Often investment from the US is routed through different countries.

Baker and McKenzie Wong and Leow chair Woun Kien Keong said that the most important thing to encourage American investment is consistency, reliability and enforceability of the laws in the areas where they operate, as well as security over assets.

“That’s quite important for American corporations and any other corporation who want to move into a new jurisdiction that is opening up like Myanmar,” he said.

He added the reliability and fairness of the adjudication process is also important.

Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry vice chair U Maung Maung Lay said there will be increasing opportunities for local businesses to provide services and supplies to foreign firms, though added it may be difficult for local firms to adapt to international practices.

“As Myanmar was under military rule for a long time, the creativity and ways of thinking of Myanmar people including businessmen may not be liked by multinationals,” he said.

“Myanmar people will need to be trained, but luckily Myanmar people are good learners,” he added.

Independent economist U Hla Maung said Taiwan and South Korea did well learning from foreigners when they were at a similar point in their development.

General Electric chief country representative Andrew Lee said cooperation with international business will help boost local employment.


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