U.S. lifts Myanmar import ban ahead of Obama visit
Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi meets with President Obama in the Oval Officer during her visit to the United States in September.
November 16th, 2012
06:27 PM ET

U.S. lifts Myanmar import ban ahead of Obama visit

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.

While the United States will issue a waiver and general license to allow the import of most Burmese-made goods, restrictions on the import of jadeite and rubies mined or extracted from Myanmar will remain in place. The government-controlled industries have been linked to human rights abuses of the Burmese people in the past.

Under the leadership of President Thein Sein, Myanmar has undergone a series of political and economic reforms during the last year and worked to shed the image of a repressive military police state. It has also freed a number of political prisoners, including Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, now a member of the country's parliament.

In addition, the government has eased various censorship laws against the press, allowed for the formation of labor unions and begun a process of reconciliation with various ethnic groups across the country. Those aspects were also cited as reasons for the gradual easing of pressure by the United States on Friday.

But the rapprochement between the two countries is still proceeding on a cautious path.

"Despite positive changes, the United States remains concerned about corruption, remaining political prisoners, continued military ties to [North Korea], and ethnic conflict," the statement from Treasury and State said.

Still, Obama's visit to Myanmar, an unthinkable prospect two years ago, and the first of a sitting U.S. president, is a recognition of the path the country has recently taken, and follows on a landmark visit last December by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Obama is "going at a pivotal moment in Burmese history to embrace the progress that's been made and to encourage the government and the people of Burma to move forward on their transition to democracy," Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, told reporters on a conference call Thursday.

Burmese exile leaders and human rights advocates have expressed concern that Obama's visit is coming too soon in the country's opening, and may not yield the additional reforms that a presidential visit can deliver if taken at the right time.

"This will be an historic visit," National Security Adviser Tom Donilon said in remarks at the Center for Strategic and International Studies on Thursday. "It will be the president speaking to the people of Burma in a clear and full way about the way forward, about the support the United States has for the reform movement, about where Burma can go if it stays on the path to reform, and that can't help but support and enhance the movement toward reform."

Obama, who will meet with both Aung San Suu Kyi and Thein Sein during his short visit to Myanmar, will also make stops in Thailand and Cambodia on the trip that formally kicks off Sunday.

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Filed under: Myanmar • Sanctions
soundoff (61 Responses)
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    November 28, 2020 at 1:02 am | Reply
  2. scrappygrams

    I'm concerned that Obama is giving the idea that he wishes democracy in Myanmar, but is working to deprive Americans of religious liberty through his Health Mandate (so-called Obamacare).

    November 19, 2012 at 6:06 pm | Reply
  3. SayanIndia

    Both United States and India should put their best foot forward through diplomatic channels to ensure the upcoming elections in Burma remain free and fair.

    My family incidentally has a soft corner for Burma as my mother spent her childhood there.


    November 19, 2012 at 12:28 am | Reply
  4. RetiredVet

    Instead of Obama focusing on how Burma is "progressing" how about he focus on getting the US and our economy and jobs, that is why he got reelected for.

    November 18, 2012 at 4:06 pm | Reply
  5. tang ziping

    Obama is very productive.

    November 18, 2012 at 1:32 am | Reply
  6. Guest

    This puts a hopeful smile on my face! Good luck to Burma! We're supporting you around the world!

    November 17, 2012 at 2:41 pm | Reply
  7. icu

    this is a not an award rather a reward for Burmese and her new gov. Burmese exile leaders and human right advocates should take one step back (I am an exile too). Yes, the transition to democracy is still on its progress. But let me tell you one thing... would you like a crying kid keep crying or would you like to give a candy to stop crying and give one more to make him/her smile?? Burmese please, be positive. otherwise we won't get anywhere.

    November 17, 2012 at 9:31 am | Reply
  8. Michael

    The name of the country is BURMA Using the pseudo-name imposed by the military dictators is an insult to the people who risked life and liberty for freedom Even CBS and NYT use the correct name

    November 17, 2012 at 8:48 am | Reply
    • Guest

      Burma was the name given by Colonial Britain. Does that name represent freedom? Myanmar was the name in place before the country came under British control.

      November 18, 2012 at 9:45 pm | Reply
    • danmaha

      Burma is a name insulting to all of those living in Myanmar who are not Burmese (Bamar). The Shan, Katchin, Karen, Mon, etc. It was the British who divided the country into seven states, differentiating between the Burmese and the other ethnic groups. England and the US are the only two countries not to acknowledge the name change that occurred in 1989.

      November 19, 2012 at 6:52 am | Reply
      • Burmese Pride

        Danmaha and Bryan are tools of the SLORC and its descendent totalitarian regimes. There tendency to villify the British & Americans is further proof of what side of freedom they are on.

        Myanmar, which means land of the Burmans in the Burmese language, was a calcultated slap at the half of the population that is non-Burman–138 other ethnic groups.

        US readers need not worry about being un-politically correct for calling Burma Burma. Daw Suu does and you should too!

        November 30, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
    • Bryan

      Excuse me, the name of the country is MYANMAR. Using the pseudo-name imposed by the Brits, is an insult to the people who risked life and liberty to free it from numerous colinialists who wanted the country for natural resources and geopolitical advantage. Even the United Nations and other international bodies uses the correct name.

      November 20, 2012 at 5:04 am | Reply

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