On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Treasury continued its effort to ease sanctions against Myanmar, which the U.S. refers to as Burma, by creating and extending general licenses for banking services, personal transactions and other trade that impacts state-owned banks and businesses. The sanctions relief is intended to allow American individuals, banks and companies to do business with Burmese financial institutions.
The sanctions relief is in response to Burma’s political and economic progress. Burma held historic elections last November and transitioned away from the military ruling party toward a democratic government in April of this year. It has also shown steady improvement of its record on human rights.
The U.S. had waived its longstanding bans on investment and trade in 2012 after Burma began political and economic reforms, but has retained restrictions on dozens of companies and individuals because they oppose reform or were implicated in human rights abuses and military trade with North Korea. With the new sanctions relief that started in 2012 and that has been expanded by the Treasury yesterday, U.S. companies can gain a foothold in the Burmese market.
In a statement about the sanctions relief, President Obama said:
“The Government of Burma has made significant progress across a number of important areas since 2011, including the release of over 1,300 political prisoners, a peaceful and competitive election, the signing of a Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement with eight ethnic armed groups, the discharge of hundreds of child soldiers from the military, steps to improve labor standards, and expanding political space for civil society to have a greater voice in shaping issues critical to Burma’s future.”
President Obama also recognized that Burma still poses a threat to the U.S., and the U.S. continues to have concerns regarding human rights violations. Despite the sanctions relief, the U.S. will continue to keep restrictions on trade and investment with the military in place.
As part of the sanctions relief, the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) updated an existing general license that frees up the ability to transact business with entities that were on OFAC’s Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) List. The Treasury also removed 10 state-owned businesses and banks from the SDN List, allowing those entities to trade and invest with their U.S. counterparts.
However, OFAC also added several entities to the SDN List, blocking the assets of six different companies that are more than 50 percent owned by other SDN entities: Steven Law and Asia World, which were initially blocked for supporting the former military-led government in Burma.
You can learn more about the current Burma sanctions at the Treasury’s website.