WASHINGTON — The U.S. and Myanmar signed a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement here on Tuesday, launching a formal dialogue that could pave the way for the two countries to work toward a more comprehensive trade arrangement.
The U.S. is taking steps to renew economic ties with the country, formerly known as Burma, after the government made some reforms, including the release of political prisoners, enactment of labor laws permitting the formation of unions and passage of foreign investment laws.
Several major apparel and retail firms, many of which had to pull out of Burma in 2003 when the U.S. imposed a ban on imports from the country after a military junta began repressing human rights, are already exploring the new opening in the country, according to industry experts. Myanmar could be a potential new apparel sourcing destination for companies that have been grappling with rising labor costs in China and other Asian countries. However, many industry officials expect investment and sourcing to be a slow-moving process because serious concerns remain about workers’ rights and safety.
“The United States supports reforms that lay the foundation for a peaceful and prosperous future,” said Demetrios Marantis, acting U.S. Trade Representative. “Economic reforms and trade are mutually supportive. Stronger institutions, transparency and rule of law create stronger foundations for commercial transactions, trade and investment.”
The move to launch a TIFA, which can serve as a blueprint for potential free-trade negotiations, follows the Obama administration’s lifting of a nine-year-old import ban in November after the Southeast Asian nation took steps to reform its government and human rights record. On Monday, Obama hosted Myanmar President Thein Sein, a former general, marking the first time in 47 years that the country’s head of state has been formally welcomed to the White House.
“Obviously, during this period in between there have been significant bilateral tensions between our countries,” Obama said. “But what has allowed this shift in relations is the leadership that President Sein has shown in moving Myanmar down a path of both political and economic reform.”
Obama added that the steps toward reform have “allowed the United States and other countries and international institutions to participate in engagement with the Myanmar government about how we can be helpful in spurring economic development that is broad-based and that produces concrete results for the people of Myanmar, and that includes the prospect of increasing trade and investment in Myanmar, which can produce jobs and higher standards of living.”
Activists and lawmakers remain wary of the nation, which is still ruled by a military-backed government, and its continuing poor record on human and labor rights, could complicate trade discussions. The USTR office said Tuesday labor rights in Myanmar continue to be an area of concern. The TIFA agreement “recognizes the importance of respecting, promoting and realizing in each party’s laws and practices the fundamental labor rights as enumerated by the International Labor Organization and of effectively enforcing their respective laws and regulations on worker rights,” USTR said.
The agency pledged to work with the Myanmar government to improve the protection of worker’s rights. USTR said bilateral trade remains small, but has increased since the easing of sanctions in 2012. Through March, bilateral trade totaled $90 million, including $89 million in U.S. exports to Myanmar and $1 million in U.S. imports from the country. In 2012, Myanmar’s total two-way goods trade with the world was about $20 billion.
My character, Dinah Madani, is just the coolest, [most] badass woman imaginable," says @amberroserevah. The actress stars in @marvel's newest series on @netflix, @thepunisher. To prepare for her role, Revah sat down with Homeland agents to get a real sense of with Dinah's day-to-day life is really like. Read our full interview on WWD.com. #wwdeye (📷: @jilliansollazzo)
A scene from the 91st annual @macys Thanksgiving Day Parade. The parade, which boasts 50 million TV viewers and 3.5 million on-site spectators, is considered one of the largest and most watched parades in the world. (📷: Jason Szenes/EPA-REX)
The circus came to @bloomingdales 59th Street on Tuesday night and lit up Lexington Avenue with acrobatic dancers, death-defying knife throwing, sword swallowing and aerial acts with no net. The 45 minutes of theatrics built up to unveiling the holiday windows depicting @swarovski crystal-encrusted circus pieces and scenes from “The Greatest Showman” – songs from the soundtrack included. See the rest of the photos on WWD.com #wwdfashion (📷: Joshua Scott)
The psychedelic fashion that pervaded the ’60s is back with an exhibit at the @museumofcityny. “Mode New York: Fashion Takes a Trip” chronicles the changing styles from 1960 through 1973 and features designers such as @ysl, @oscardelarenta and more. The exhibition, which is on display through April 1, is organized into four periods: First Lady Fasion, Youthquake, New Bohemia and New Nonchalance. Pictured here is model Pat Bardonella during the Garvey Day Parade in 1968. (📷: @kwamebphoto) #wwdeye #wwdfashion
“People should be a lot more honest in expressing both the dark and light of themselves. We need to give each other the space to do that because it’s the only way we can grow and evolve,” says @noelwells of her new film “Mr. Roosevelt,” which is largely based on her own struggles. Unexpectedly leaving @nbcsnl in 2014 after just one season, Wells felt set back in her self-esteem and career trajectory. She quickly refocused her energy to more personal projects, which led to the completion of “Mr. Roosevelt.” Read the rest of WWD’s interview with the “Master of None” actress on WWD.com #wwdeye (📷: @jilliansollazzo)
@barbrastreisand is giving fans a chance to see her perform up close in a new concert series, which makes its debut on @Netflix today. From behind-the-scenes takes to her concert performance in Miami last December, the two-hour streaming special captures Streisand in her element. Pictured here is the singer/actress photographed for WWD in 1963. (📷: Palmieri Tony) #wwdeye #wwdarchive
@chanel and @pharrell dropped what’s being dubbed as the world’s most exclusive sneakers yesterday. The Adidas Originals NMD Hu, which Williams designed in collaboration with Chanel and @adidasoriginals, has a waiting list of over 120K people who pre-registered online at chanelatcolette.fr –– and only 500 pairs are on sale. The singer predicted the resale value of the shoes could reach $40K. Read the full interview on WWD.com. Link in bio. #wwdfashion (📷: Dominique Maître)
@imanshumpert is diving deeper into his creative endeavors and relaunching his clothing line, Post 90s, and is helping to raise money for the hurricane victims in St. Maarten with a jersey he’s designed with his brother. The Cleveland Cavaliers player talked to WWD about kneeling during the national anthem, working with fashion brands and how he wants to be more than an @nba player. Read the interview on WWD.com #wwdfashion (📷: George Chinese)