WASHINGTON — The Obama administration on Tuesday eased regulations and lifted sanctions on companies and banks in Myanmar as part of a continued effort to support trade and financial transactions in the Southeast Asian nation.
The Treasury Department amended regulations to expand trade, facilitate the movement of goods within Mynamar, which is formerly known as Burma, and allow most transactions related to designated financial institutions.
The administration said the move was intended to spur political reforms and economic growth in Myanmar, which is undergoing a transition to democracy after a new government came to power in April.
“Burma 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 at the Treasury Department. “Our actions today demonstrate our strong support for this political and economic progress while continuing to pressure designated persons in Burma to change their behavior.”
“These steps will help to facilitate trade with non-sanctioned businesses and, in turn, help the people and Government of Burma achieve a more inclusive and prosperous future.”
Treasury lifted sanctions against seven state-owned enterprises and three state-owned banks.
The agency’s Office of Foreign Assets Control made two regulatory amendments in particular on trade-related sanctions. One of the two changes related to adding a general license permitting certain transactions involving the movement of goods within Myanmar, including transporting goods from a warehouse in Burma to retail outlets there.
Last month, a new government took power after former political prisoner Aung San Suu Kyi’s party won in the historical elections, which brought an end to military rule.
While the U.S. has continued to ease restrictions for doing business in Myanmar, several still remain as the military still wields influence over certain parts of the economy.
The Obama administration waived a nine-year-old ban on imports from the country in 2012 as it began renewing economic ties with the country after the government made some reforms, including the release of political prisoners, enactment of labor laws permitting the formation of unions and passage of a 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, have explored investing there though obstacles still remain, according to industry experts.
In 2013, the U.S. and Myanmar signed a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement, launching a formal dialogue that could pave the way for the two countries to work toward a more comprehensive trade arrangement.