U.S., Myanmar sign trade framework agreement

May 22, 2013 at 12:51 AM
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WASHINGTON, May 22 (UPI) -- The United States and Myanmar signed a trade and investment framework agreement, coinciding with the visit of Myanmar President Thein Sein.

The agreement will create "a platform for ongoing dialogue and cooperation on trade and investment issues between the two governments," the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative said on its website.

It was signed Tuesday in Washington by acting U.S. Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis and Myanmar's Deputy Commerce Minister Pwint San.

The agreement calls for the two sides to identify initiatives that support the ongoing reform program in Myanmar and promote inclusive development that benefits its people including the poorest segments of the population, the announcement said. Myanmar was formerly called Burma.

"The United States supports reforms that lay the foundation for a peaceful and prosperous future," Marantis said. "Economic reforms and trade are mutually supportive. Stronger institutions, transparency, and rule of law create stronger foundations for commercial transactions, trade and investment."

Officials said the agreement recognizes the importance of respecting and promoting each side's laws and respecting fundamental labor rights outlined by the International Labor Organization.

U.S. President Barack Obama, who visited Myanmar last November, praised Thein Sein's leadership in bringing about political and economic reforms in his country. Prior to the establishment of a civilian government in 2001 under Thein Sein, the country had been under brutal military rule for decades.

Since then, the United States and other Western nations have eased their sanctions against Myanmar, which have helped improve the isolated country's economy and encourage foreign investments.

"Over the last two years we have seen a sustained process in which political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi, have been released and have been incorporated into the political process," Obama said. "We very much appreciate your efforts and leadership in leading Myanmar in a new direction."

The U.S. Trade Representative Office said with the easing of U.S. sanctions last year, bilateral trade has been increasing but still remains small. In the first three months of 2013, bilateral trade totaled $90 million, including $89 million in U.S. exports to and $1 million in U.S. imports from Myanmar.

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