Export boost from first strategy

Vice President U Nyan Tun rang in the official launch of the first national export strategy for the country yesterday in Nay Pyi Taw, which experts hope may prove to be a boost to trade abroad.

The strategy, drafted primarily by the Ministry of Commerce with help from both the private and public sectors, will push Myanmar toward “sustainable export-led growth and prosperity”, according to a statement.

The plan’s official deployment signals Myanmar’s eagerness to expand on exports and look beyond selling the same products to the same markets. However, the country has struggled with its share of challenges. Arancha González, executive director of the International Trade Centre, characterised the starting point for the domestic economy as low value-added, low productivity and low quality in a March 24 discussion.

The National Export Strategy, which received technical assistance from the International Trade Centre and support from the German Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development and the German Agency for International Cooperation, seeks to improve on these issues and to provide guidance for industry players that will lead to real-life benefits for Myanmar’s population.

“Myanmar now has a strategy, it has a plan … to do two things: to diversify its trade and to make sure the trade is more in value-added,” said Ms González at yesterday’s launch event. “These two … want to use trade to generate more inclusive growth, more sustainable development and more decent jobs.”

“I am convinced that the implementation of the National Export Strategy would help achieve our main objectives of poverty alleviation, rural development and broad-based inclusive growth and will successfully lead our country to sustainable growth and prosperity,” U Nyan Tun said at the March 25 launch.

Ms González called Myanmar “a country on the move” and said its GDP per capital – right now at $910 – could triple by 2030.

And though other speakers at the March 25 event mentioned Myanmar’s progress, their comments also reminded that the country had far to go with regards to its export practices.

World Bank country director Ulrich Zachau said Myanmar’s labour force and economic structure remain that of a low-income country.

Meanwhile, Commerce Minister U Win Myint said reforms had led trade volume to increase substantially, but it hadn’t reached full potential – and that Myanmar still mostly dealt in low-priced, low-quality products.

More than 40 percent of Myanmar’s exports don’t get too far from home when they leave the country, ending up in Thailand. Ms González also said 70pc of the Myanmar’s exports are commodities – minerals and oils, logs and pearls.

While partners, products, quality and productivity have been limited, Ms González said the National Export Strategy aims to diversify, add value to and boost the quality and yield of Myanmar’s offerings.

But the plan stays a collected batch of papers until actions have been taken. While Ms González said implementation has already started, other pledges have not yet become reality, as yesterday marked the official start of the implementation phase.

“[Yesterday] is the end of the plan. [Yesterday] is day one of implementing the plan,” Ms González said. “The important thing now is to transform it into action on the ground … [as] part of the transformation of the economy of Myanmar, a transformation that we see needs to happen for the benefit of the people.”

The five-year National Export Strategy focuses on rubber; rice; beans, pulses and oilseeds; fisheries; textiles and garments; forestry products; tourism; and four “cross-sector functions” – access to finance, quality management, trade facilitation and logistics, and trade information and promotion. It will be put into practice with help from a group called the Myanmar Trade Development Committee.

The vice president said its creation is targeted at monitoring and evaluating the implementation of the export strategy and trade-related measures. Committee members presented at the March 25 launch, speaking about objectives for industry under the National Export Strategy.

Financing implementation could come from national resources, donor support, foreign direct investment or the private sector, according to Department of Trade Promotion deputy director U Aung Soe.

Speakers emphasised that export players will have to cooperate in order to ensure Myanmar continues to move forward.

“A plan is only valuable as long as it is implemented,” Ms González said. “I’m glad to say that Myanmar has already started putting the plan into action. Attention will now have to be paid to ensuring coordinating in action and coherence in the sense of direction.”

“We’ve got to all row in the same direction. There is no doubt that these are challenging times but I am absolutely convinced that we will rise to meet them to grow our economy, to shape our own future,” said U Nyan Tun.

Ultimately, it will be up to Myanmar whether to follow through on the plan, though ideally not alone.

“A traditional Myanmar proverb says travel not afar without a companion,” Ms González said. “The National Export Strategy we are launching today can be an extraordinary companion for Myanmar to become a regional trade champion.”

Source: Myanmar Times

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