U.S. Sanctions on Myanmar to Remain Even After Trade Exemption

  • Treasury eases some restrictions after trade hampered
  • Easing doesn't represent a change in sanctions policy

U.S. sanctions on blacklisted individuals and businesses in Myanmar will remain despite the easing of some trade restrictions and the victory of the party led by pro-democracy campaigner Aung San Suu Kyi in last month’s elections, a U.S. official said.

“Calibrated sanctions remain in place, including a ban on investment with the military, a ban on all transactions with specially designated nationals,” U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby said at briefing in Washington on Tuesday.

Speculation that sanctions would be eased was fanned after the U.S. Treasury said Monday that U.S. businesses would be allowed to use ports, toll roads and airports in the country even though they may result in incidental transactions with individuals blacklisted by the U.S.

The U.S. imposed sanctions on Myanmar in May 1997 after the repression of democratic opposition by the military-controlled government. Some of these were eased in April 2012, when the country started its democratic process and the U.S. named an ambassador to the nation also known as Burma.

The U.S. maintains a blacklist of people and companies, including some of the biggest holding companies and several banks. U.S. entities investing more than $500,000 in the country must file paperwork every year on issues from human rights to anti-corruption measures in the country.

The Treasury said Monday that concern among some U.S. businesses about sanction breaches had hampered trade with Myanmar.

No Shift

Expectations that the U.S. would review the sanctions rose after Suu Kyi’s sweeping victory in elections last month that unseated the quasi-civilian government, ending a half century of direct and indirect military rule.

Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy gained wide majorities in both houses of parliament, allowing the NLD to select the president without having to rely on other political parties or military-linked lawmakers. U.S. President Barack Obama has welcomed the victory by Suu Kyi, a democracy activist who spent more than a decade under house arrest and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

The partial easing of the sanctions “is not a reward for the recent election, and does not represent a change in U.S.-Burma sanctions policy,” Kirby said.

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