First American Trade Minister to Visit Discusses Opportunities Ahead
Rangoon, Burma – Acting U.S. Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis concluded his visit to Burma today, expressing the United States' continuing support for economic reforms in the country through renewed trade and investment and expanded commercial ties. Ambassador Marantis, the first American trade minister to visit the country, explored with senior government officials opportunities to rebuild production and trade capacity here through mechanisms such as a potential Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA), which would formalize bilateral dialogue on trade and investment issues, and the possible reinstatement of benefits under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), which allows for the duty-free entry into the United States of many goods from beneficiary countries.
"This is a country experiencing great changes and challenges, and trade and investment can help to support the reforms that will ultimately grow employment and raise the living standards here," said Ambassador Marantis. "Working together, we can create opportunities bilaterally and regionally that will benefit both our economies - including the people of this country who need the benefits of economic growth and development."
While here, Ambassador Marantis met with Senior Economic Minister U Soe Thane, Commerce Minister U Win Myint, Deputy Labor Minister U Myint Thein, and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, whose views he sought on the potential role of trade in improving daily life for citizens.
Both the possibility of the TIFA and GSP figured prominently in discussions; the country's GSP eligibility was revoked in 1989 because of concerns about workers' rights, including with regard to forced labor. In addition to the government meetings in which the U.S. statutory requirements for GSP eligibility were discussed, officials from the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative met separately with the local International Labor Organization representative to discuss current steps to advance labor reforms, including with regard to forced labor and the freedom to associate.
In a speech at the American Center, Ambassador Marantis encouraged an audience of students and professors to prepare for the opportunities that greater trade and investment openness will bring; he also sought the views of U.S. businesses on the challenges and opportunities for doing business here.
Last week, USTR began the process of public comment on Burma's GSP eligibility and will continue to consult with Congress in this regard. The public hearing on this issue will take place at USTR on June 4.