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European Union Free Trade Negotiations with Southeast Asia

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By Ian Bhullar

Jul. 3 – The announcement of negotiations on a Vietnam-European Union (EU) free trade agreement (FTA) this week is promising for business leaders with interests on the intersection of Europe and the whole of the Southeast Asian region.

EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht and Vietnamese Minister for Industry and Trade Vu Huy Hoang launched negotiations covering tariffs, non-tariff barriers, procurement, regulatory issues, competition, and sustainable development on June 27.

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Myanmar Attracts International Investment

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By Joshua Gill

Jun. 25 – Following U.S. President Barack Obama’s May 17 announcement that the United States would ease its sanctions against Myanmar, some American firms have begun to make efforts to expand into this newly available market. In his speech, President Obama declared that the suspension of the bans on the exportation of financial services and new investment in Myanmar would “facilitate broad-based economic development” and bring Myanmar “out of isolation and into the international community.”

On June 14, Coca-Cola announced that it planned to end its more than 60 year suspension of business with Myanmar and re-enter the market. The resumption of business includes a US$3 million grant to a women’s empowerment group as well as plans to begin importing Coca-Cola products from neighboring countries. Its long-term plans include partnering with local businesses to establish itself as a market leader in Myanmar.

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India-Myanmar Sign Key Trade and Development Deals

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Infrastructure includes road linking India to Thailand

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with Myanmar President Thein Sein

May 29 – Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, in Myanmar meeting with President Thein Sein this week, has agreed on a number of key investment and development projects with the country. It has been the first visit to Myanmar by an Indian PM in 25 years.

Among the various agreements signed has been an air services project, which will provide 18 Indian cities with flights to Myanmar and also allow them to combine these with onward flights to other Asian destinations. Indian companies will also explore oil in some of Myanmar’s blocs, while border trade zones will be set up at Arunachal Pradesh at the Pangsau Pass.

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Myanmar Set to Open Up to Foreign Investment

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Mar. 28 – The Myanmar government is introducing a new set of regulations expected to promote foreign direct investment into the country. Coupled with the lifting of U.S. sanctions on the existing regime, this move may well spell the beginning of a new chapter in the nation’s development. Long a pariah state and run until recently as an oppressive military dictatorship, a shift in domestic policy appears to be opening up the country to reform.

New regulations are set to be introduced as early as next month, taking the shape of tax holidays, simplifying foreign exchange, liberalizing the banking sector and reforming the areas of investment available for foreign participation.

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