The European Union on Wednesday readmitted Myanmar to its trade preference scheme, saying it wanted to support reform in the once pariah state through economic development.
Myanmar’s membership of the scheme was withdrawn in 1997 due to concerns over the use of forced labour under the then-military junta.
But the EU said the International Labour Organisation had last year reported “necessary improvements” to labour practices in Myanmar, which was formerly known as Burma.
The Irish presidency of the EU and the president of the European parliament signed legislation on Wednesday confirming Myanmar’s readmission.
“Given the positive developments in Myanmar/Burma in the recent past, it is important that the EU supports this by facilitating economic growth and development opportunities,” said Irish jobs and enterprise minister Richard Bruton.
The EU scheme grants developing nations preferential access to the 27-nation bloc for several products in the form of lower tariffs.
In London, Justine Greening, the International Development Secretary, welcomed the news.
“We have been calling for the EU to recognise that Burma’s standards are improving and this is great news,” she said.
“Boosting trade and exports is vital if Burma is to develop its economy and escape years of poverty.”
The EU in April agreed to lift the last of the bloc’s trade, economic and individual sanctions against Myanmar in response to the military’s progressive ceding of power to civilians.