By Jamie Crawford
The United States on Friday announced the easing of restrictions on imports of most goods from Myanmar, just a day before President Obama leaves on a trip that includes a stop in the former pariah state.
The lifting of the ban, which had been in place for nearly a decade, was made in response to ongoing reforms taken by the government of the country also known as Burma.
"Today's joint actions by the Departments of State and Treasury are intended to support the Burmese government's ongoing reform efforts and to encourage further change, as well as to offer new opportunities for Burmese and American businesses," the departments said in a statement.
The United States already has eased restrictions on U.S. investment in Myanmar, and resumed normal diplomatic relations with the Southeast Asia nation.
By Jill Dougherty and Jamie Crawford
Praising Myanmar for "significant progress along the path to democracy" President Barack Obama moved on several fronts Thursday to reward the country for historic changes it has instituted.
Obama announced he is nominating Derek Mitchell as the United States' first ambassador to Myanmar since 1990 and also said he is lifting economic sanctions the Southeast Asian nation, while maintaining U.S. laws on the books as an insurance policy for future progress.
The U.S., he said, will ease its bans on the exportation of financial services and new investment in Myanmar, which is also known as Burma.
"Opening up greater economic engagement between our two countries is critical to supporting reformers in government and civil society," he said, "facilitating broad-based economic development, and bringing Burma out of isolation and into the international community."
By Jamie Crawford
The United States eased sanctions on Myanmar Tuesday to allow for certain financial transactions that support humanitarian, religious and other not-for-profit activities in the southeast Asian nation.
The order, which was announced in a letter by Adam J. Szubin, director of the Office of Foreign Assets Control at the Treasury Department, covers activities such as education, sports, religious and democracy-building activities in the country, which is also known as Burma. Support for projects that meet basic human needs such as disaster relief, clean water and sanitation are affected as well.
The announcement comes as the United States takes steps to normalize relations with Myanmar following recent parliamentary elections and the release of some of its political prisoners.
By Jill Dougherty
Responding to Myanmar's parliamentary elections, which Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called a "dramatic demonstration of popular will," the Obama administration is taking several significant steps to normalize relations with the country.
In an announcement at the State Department Wednesday, Clinton said the administration is consulting with Congress, with European and Asian allies and others on the U.S. response. She said the United States is prepared to seek agreement from the government of Myanmar, also known as Burma, for an ambassador to the country and to establish an in-country mission by the United States Agency for International Development.
In addition, the U.S. would seek to enable American-based private organizations to pursue activities including building democracy, improving health and education, and facilitating travel to the United States for select government officials and members of parliament.
By Foreign Affairs Reporter Jill Dougherty
Myanmar. Burma. No matter what you call it (the United States and some other countries still refer to it as Burma), it’s one of the most exotic places I have ever traveled to.
Technologically in the dark ages–no credit cards, everything in cash, international cell phones like Blackberries don’t work, even the airport in the new capital has no lights for night landings–it once was the jewel of Asia. On our barefoot visit to the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon I was stunned by its blinding beauty.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s trip was built on a slender reed of hope that the Myanmar president and some other members of the government really do want to open up, reform the political system, end the ethnic conflicts that have scarred this country for too long.
We moved from the bizarre new capital, Nay Pyi Daw, with its massive government complexes (shades of Pyonyang, North Korea) to the home of Nobel Peace Prize-winner and democracy icon Aun San Suu Kyi in Yangon. Slender, almost delicate, she nevertheless exudes a deep inner force. Suu Kyi believes the president is sincere about reform.
With Suu Kyi’s blessing Clinton made this trip. Shaded from the blazing sun they embrace. My camera captures the moment. Is it an historic beginning? Or a hope that that will soon be swallowed by new repression?
By Foreign Affairs Correspondent Jill Dougherty reporting from Yangon, Myanmar
Aung San Suu Kyi, icon of Myanmar's democracy movement, was looking for some advice from Hillary Clinton: Did the former first lady, former politician, and current secretary of state have any pointers on getting back into the public fray?
After nearly two decades in detention under Myanmar's military regime, Suu Kyi has registered her political party and intends to run in upcoming elections. She met Thursday night with Clinton at the residence of the U.S. chief of mission in Yangon for a quiet dinner before a more in-depth meeting scheduled for Friday at her own home, where she was held prisoner.
Clinton and Suu Kyi "fell into conversation very easily, very naturally," said a senior State Department official who described the evening to reporters traveling with Clinton. It was "as if they knew each other a long time."
The Nobel Peace Prize winner told Clinton that she has read the books the secretary and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, have written. In an ironic twist, she added that one of the few things she missed about being under house arrest is that she had a lot more time to read. Now, when she reads she's delving into books about military personalities. FULL POST
From the pool producer traveling with Hillary Clinton
President Obama has sent two letters with Secretary Clinton, one for Burma's President Thein Sein and another for Augn San Suu Kyi. Clinton delivered the first one during her meeting with President Sein in the morning and delivered the second at an evening dinner with Aung San Suu Kyi in Rangoon.
Here's the text of both letter:
By Senior State Department Producer Elise Labott
Much has happened in the year since Aung San Suu Kyi, or "The Lady," as she is referred to in Myanmar, was released after two decades in house arrest.
Once unable to communicate with the people of Myanmar, let alone the outside world, now the Nobel laureate intends to run for parliament.
It's a sign of her resilience but also emblematic of the hope that Myanmar's government is serious about making democratic reforms and moving from five decades of direct military rule.
These openings have prompted increased engagement by the United States and a coveted visit this week by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the first by a U.S. secretary of state in more than 50 years.
Suu Kyi is a bit of an enigma. She is known worldwide for her efforts to bring democracy to Myanmar, also known as Burma, but few people have had the opportunity to hear her speak at any great length over year years. FULL POST
Our Jill Dougherty snapped this shot of the Uppatasanti Pagoda as the plane carrying Secretary of State Hillary Clinton flew into Myanmar. It is the first visit of an American official to the country in the last five decades.
Read Jill's dispatch about the trip: Clinton trip "tests the waters" in Myanmar
By CNN Foreign Affairs Correspondent Jill Dougherty reporting from Busan, South Korea
You could call this the "show me" trip: the first visit by a secretary of state in more than a half-century to the nation one U.S. official recently referred to as that "mythical and tragic country" of Myanmar.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrives in the county Wednesday to start a two-day visit.
The United States still refers to the country as Burma, citing displeasure over how the name was changed when the results of democratic elections were thrown out by the military junta more than 25 years ago.
Ruled by that junta since 1962, Myanmar is now under a new president, a former general elected in March of this year. The country is undergoing a period of rapid political change that the Obama administration cautiously says it finds encouraging as well as promising.