WASHINGTON — President Clinton’s decision Tuesday to ban all new U.S. investment in Burma because of that country’s large-scale repression and drug trade met with some criticism from the business community.
Such unilateral action “is clearly the last step we want to take on Burma,” said Robert Hall, National Retail Federation vice president and international trade counsel. “In the overall broad trade picture, we clearly prefer not to see such action.”
The NRF is a member of a coalition of 466 firms and organizations called USA Engage, which issued a statement protesting Clinton’s move.
“Today’s decision to impose unilateral economic sanctions on Burma represents a failure of American foreign policy,” said Frank Kittredge, vice chair of the coalition. He also is president of the National Foreign Trade Council.
“The evidence is clear, multilateral cooperation works far better than unilateral sanctions. Today’s action perpetuates a bad precedent by ceding American leadership while rewarding our foreign competitors.”
Burma is not a major supplier of textiles and apparel to the U.S., but in the last year, its shipments have been rising. For the 12 months ended in February, its apparel and textile shipments to the U.S. totaled 26.6 million square meters equivalent, against 19.3 million SME in the prior year. Almost all of this trade is in apparel.
In recent years, several leading manufacturers and retailers have stopped sourcing in Burma — or Myanmar, as the country is now known — because of human rights abuses. Liz Claiborne and Levi Strauss withdrew their apparel-making efforts in 1992. Other firms that have left Burma include Eddie Bauer, Columbia Sportswear, Oshkosh B’Gosh and Macy’s.

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