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US eases sanctions on Myanmar to support reform, facilitate trade

Updated: 2016-05-18 10:35
WASHINGTON - The United States announced Tuesday that it is lifting some of the sanctions on Myanmar to show support for the country's political reforms and economic growth and to facilitate trade between the two sides.

In a statement, the US Treasury Department issued regulatory amendments that ease restrictions on Myanmar's financial institutions, allow certain transactions related to U.S. individuals living in the country, and remove seven state-owned enterprises and three state-owned banks from the U.S. blacklist.

"Burma (Myanmar) reached a historic milestone over the last year by holding competitive elections and peacefully transitioning to a democratically-elected government," said Adam Szubin, Acting Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence.
"Our actions today demonstrate our strong support for this political and economic progress while continuing to pressure designated persons in Burma (Myanmar) to change their behavior."

U Htin Kyaw of the National League for Democracy (NLD), led by Aung San Suu Kyi, was sworn in as Myanmar's new president in late March. US President Barack Obama welcomed the "historic step forward" of a democratic transfer of power to a civilian-led government in Myanmar.

The move on Tuesday will "help to facilitate trade with non-sanctioned businesses and, in turn, help the people and Government of Burma (Myanmar) achieve a more inclusive and prosperous future," Szubin said.

However, the United States strengthened certain sanctions on Myanmar in a bid to "incentivize further democratic reforms and maintain pressure on targeted individuals and entities and the military," according to the statement.

The Treasury Department blacklists six companies that are owned 50 percent or more by Steven Law, or Asia World Co. Ltd, the company he controls. Both Law and Asia World were designated by the US in 2008 for providing support to the then military-led government.

In a letter to Congress Tuesday, Obama expressed US concerns over continued obstacles in Myanmar to full civilian control of the government, the ongoing conflict and human rights abuses in the country, particularly in ethnic minority areas, and military trade with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

Obama told Congress he has determined to continue the national emergency with respect to Myanmar, which was declared on May 20, 1997.

Despite this action, the US remains committed to working with both the new government and the people of Myanmar to "ensure that the democratic transition is irreversible," he added.

On May 22, US Secretary of State John Kerry will travel to Myanmar to meet with key leaders to signal US support for the new democratically elected, civilian-led government and further democratic and economic reforms, the State Department has said.
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