4 Dec 2015
U.S. Resumes Consideration of Adding Myanmar as GSP Beneficiary
The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative has reportedly resumed a review initiated in 2013 to determine whether to designate Myanmar (known in the United States as Burma) as a beneficiary and/or least-developed beneficiary developing country under the Generalised System of Preferences. Myanmar’s previous designation as a GSP beneficiary was suspended in July 1989 due to worker rights issues. USTR launched a review of whether to restore Myanmar’s GSP eligibility in April 2013, but that review was put on hold when GSP itself lapsed. This past summer the U.S. Congress retroactively re-authorised GSP through 31 December 2017.
The decision to resume the USTR review could signal a renewed effort to further open up U.S.-Myanmar trade after decades of restrictions. In 2012 and 2013 the Obama administration took a number of steps to re-establish trade links with Myanmar in response to reforms implemented by that country’s ruling military regime. New investments in Myanmar were authorised and a long-standing U.S. ban on imports from that country was lifted. U.S. officials also raised the prospect of negotiating a bi-lateral trade and investment framework agreement and discussed potential opportunities under the Expanded Economic Engagement (E3) Initiative, a framework designed to expand trade and investment ties between the United States and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
U.S. imports from Myanmar totalled US$98.5 million during January-September 2015, up by 58.5 percent from US$62.1 million during the same period a year earlier. Imports have grown briskly since the United States lifted the import ban on Myanmar products, with shipments surging from only US$38,000 in 2012 to US$29.9 million in 2013 and US$92.6 million in 2014. Many key Myanmar exports to the United States already benefit from duty-free treatment on an MFN basis, including various fish and seafood products, while other products where Myanmar excels (including footwear, apparel, and travel and sports bags) are currently excluded from GSP.