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Myanmar Regains EU Trade Benefits, May Boost Clothing Exports

The European Union ended 16-year-old trade sanctions against Myanmar because of labor-rights improvements in the Asian country, whose clothing exports to Europe may be boosted by the EU step.

Myanmar will be given preferential access to the EU market tomorrow for the first time since 1997, when the bloc suspended the trade benefits because the nation violated international conventions on forced labor. Myanmar’s exports to the EU in 2012 were valued at 164 million euros ($215 million), according to the European Commission, which said the shipments “are concentrated on clothing.”

The EU will grant duty-free and quota-free access to all goods from Myanmar except arms and ammunition. The benefits will apply retroactively as of June 13, 2012, when the International Labor Organization first recognized progress in the worker-rights situation in Myanmar, the commission, the 28-nation EU’s trade authority, said in a statement today in Brussels.

“This has the potential to make a huge difference to the country’s economic development and to bring real benefits to the people there,” EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht said. “Trade is fundamental to supporting political stability.”

The EU’s decision to re-establish commercial benefits for Myanmar under the bloc’s “Generalized Scheme of Preferences” is part of European steps to reward the country for progressing toward democracy from military rule. In recent months, the EU has decided to lift all sanctions against Myanmar except for an arms embargo.

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