By Patrick Corby
The European Union has decided to permanently lift all trade sanctions in Myanmar (Burma) starting 30th April in response to the “remarkable process of reform”.
The permanent dissolving of political sanctions, which were temporarily suspended last year, will signal and encourage European investment in Myanmar and leave the US as the only nation to maintain their political pressure on Myanmnar.
This month, Myanmar opened up 30 offshore oil and gas exploration block contracts for auction in a bid to attract fierce competition from the extraction sector. In January, the nation had also opened 18 onshore oil and gas block contracts for auction.
Those who have already expressed interest in entering Myanmar include Chevron, BP, Woodside, Royal Dutch Shell, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil and Statoil, showing the great attraction of further exploration in Burma.
The extraction projects in Myanmar stretch on and offshore in copper, nickel, coal, jade mines, oil and gas. Other sectors that will draw interest, according to Normita, are the telecommunications and financial sector.
Over the last 30 years $20 billion has been invested in Myanmar, mostly from China and Thailand. In January, the Chinese company PetroChina, confirmed that a gas pipe will be operational this year in an attempt to free itself from over dependence on the strait of Malacca, controlled by a US military presence.
Myanmar’s opening offers a great advantage to those companies wishing to gear into Asia, as it creates the left basin of the natural harbour and the oil rich Bay of Bengal, offering an opening into the shipping route to the Indian Ocean and points of entry into Africa and the Middle East.
“We are working on a second wave of reforms, which will focus especially on the development of the country and the public’s welfare,” the current president of Myanmar, Thein Sein, stated in his address on 23rd April.
“Myanmar is one of the world’s last untapped frontiers, and this is a period of change, of uncertainty and also of promise,” said Bob Jeffrey, chairman of the advertising group J. Walter Thompson.
Thein Sein, in what can be interpreted as a reflection on the current violence in Myanmar southern, stated in relation to the long standing conflicts of Buddist and Muslim groups: “Only when we have real economic progress will the democratic process flourish, and the suspension of EU and US sanctions would help greatly.”
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