Plans are currently underway to develop a new special economic zone (SEZ) in Myeik. Located in Myanmar’s southeastern Tanintharyi region, Myeik is home to one of Myanmar’s growing number of industrial zones. According to the Ministry of Electric Power and Industry, a proposal for the new economic zone has been submitted to the regional government for review.
Like many countries in Southeast Asia, Myanmar has been making efforts to transform its agro-based economy into an industrialized one, with the objective of becoming a modern and industrialized nation. Though decades of military rule and isolation have led to underdevelopment and the creation of economic sanctions, reforms in recent years are opening Myanmar to increasing amounts of trade and business with other countries around the globe.
Vietnam and Myanmar are building economic ties, primarily in the banking sector, after signing a memorandum of understanding on cooperation between a state-owned Vietnamese bank and a Myanmar industrial-related bank in Yangon earlier this month.
The two banks that signed the agreement are the Small and Medium Industrial Development Bank of Myanmar (SMIDB) and the Joint Stock Commercial Bank for Investment and Development of Vietnam (BIDV).
The Manila Times reports, “The MoU is aimed at capacity building and transfer of technology in the banking sector as well as monetary and foreign exchange activities, said SMIDB, adding that Myanmar bank staff will be provided with further training in Vietnam to serve for Myanmar’s SME sector development.”
May 16 – The first round of negotiations on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) wrapped up on Sunday after being launched by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and six free trade agreement (FTA) partners last week. The countries in attendance were Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand in addition to ASEAN’s Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
The RCEP’s main purpose is to create a comprehensive and mutually beneficial economic partnership that has a deeper level of engagement compared to ASEAN’s already existing FTAs. Once fully established, the RCEP will be one of the world’s largest free trade areas, and it will create an integrated market of over 3 billion people with a combined gross domestic product of over US$20 trillion.
Apr. 25 – On Monday this week, the foreign ministers of the European Union (EU) permanently ended the majority of its sanctions against Myanmar. The sanctions have already been suspended for nearly a year, with support for removing them permanently growing in step with recent democratic, economic and human rights reforms in the country.
The move follows in the wake of the United States removing most of their sanctions against Myanmar over the past year, as leaders on both continents seek to reward and further facilitate reforms by Myanmar President Thein Sein. The EU’s arms embargo on Myanmar will continue to stay in place, however, and will not be reviewed for another year.
While the policies of President Thein Sein have largely been welcomed by the international community and businesses looking to invest in the country, several concerns have lingered, especially those regarding the government’s mistreatment and lack of protection of minority groups. This was also noted by EU foreign ministers, who cited “significant challenges” in this and other areas.
Mar. 18 – The first issue of Asia Briefing Magazine, titled Are You Ready For ASEAN 2015?, is out now and available as a PDF download on the Asia Briefing Bookstore. Although both China and India have recently signed free trade agreements with ASEAN, many businesses still seem blissfully unaware of the free trade agreements and economic partnerships that are dramatically changing Asia’s business opportunities. These are agreements that do away with customs duties and tariffs on thousands of products. In this first issue of the bi-monthly Asia Briefing magazine, we focus on the new dawn that ASEAN free trade brings to the entire region, as well as the dramatic added impact of pan-Asian free trade agreements such as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.
ASEAN – the Association of Southeast Asian Nations – comprises 10 Asian countries (Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam) as an economic trade bloc. That means reduced or zero customs duties across a space that includes the 10 ASEAN nations, and includes additional agreements, still under negotiation, that are expected to link in China, India, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and South Korea with the same ASEAN bloc.
By Alex Tangkilisan
Feb. 20 – In the second part of our ASEAN-India Free Trade Area analysis, we will examine trade trends and statistics from India to Indonesia, Vietnam and Myanmar.
Indonesia and Vietnam make up two of the major six economies in ASEAN, while Myanmar is one of the four smallest economies in the region (alongside Cambodia, Brunei and Laos). Together, these three countries combine for a total GDP of US$1.07 trillion, a population of 378.5 million, and exports to India amounting to US$13.37 billion (or, about 2.7 percent of India’s total imports).
In conjunction with ASEAN’s continued emergence as a regional economic powerhouse, these figures, although still somewhat small, are poised to grow thanks to the free trade agreements (FTAs) signed between India and ASEAN.
Plus Myanmar issues new foreign investment law
Nov. 9 – China is set to commence negotiations to create a 16-nation trade bloc, known as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), with its launch expected to be formally announced at the ASEAN summit in Phnom Penh later this month. The RCEP will include the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) plus China, India, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand, and will have the effect of lowering trade barriers and custom duties across the region by the end of 2015. ASEAN includes Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. A map of the participating members of the proposed RCEP can be seen below.
By Daniel Fleishman
Nov. 9 – U.S. President Barack Obama, who won a second term in office this past Tuesday, will be taking a trip to Myanmar later this month as part of a broad tour of Southeast Asia. He will make history as the first American president to visit Myanmar and the second high-level U.S. official, after Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, to visit since the country’s recent transition from decades of military rule to a quasi-civilian government under President Thein Sein.
Obama’s visit is seen as a significant step in the already-improving relations between the United States and the impoverished Myanmar, whose economy has been suffering from an ineffective command economy, institutional corruption, and heavy international economic sanctions.
Jul. 19 – Asia Briefing, in cooperation with its parent firm Dezan Shira & Associates, has just released a new 28-page report introducing the current business environment in Myanmar. This guide, titled “An Introduction to Doing Business in Myanmar,” is immediately available as a complimentary PDF download on the Asia Briefing Bookstore.
Myanmar is finally opening its doors to the rest of the world with the military-led government only a few months ago pushing forward political and economic reforms, attracting the attention of potential investors worldwide.
What will happen in the future is unclear, but the current president, Thein Sein (who could step down in 2015), is an advocate of opening and reforming the economy, so it seems there is finally a light at the end of the tunnel.
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.