U.S. Treasury moves to relax Myanmar sanctions

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks to students in November 2014 in Yangon, Myanmar. The U.S. will ease sanctions on the Southeast Asian nation following political reforms.

Story highlights

  • Obama administration says it will relax sanctions on Myanmar
  • Move comes after peaceful transition to democratically-elected government

(CNN)The U.S. is poised to relax -- although not completely eliminate -- sanctions against Myanmar, according to a U.S. Treasury Department statement.

The move reflects the Obama administration's growing satisfaction with political reforms in the country, and will see as many as ten state-owned entities from the finance, timber and mining industries removed from a Treasury blacklist, as well as freeing up transactions with Myanmar and for U.S. citizens to conduct business in the country.
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    The department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has amended its regulatory stance towards the once-isolated Southeast Asian nation, allowing greater ease of transactions with Myanmar companies and U.S. nationals residing in the country.
    A proposed change in the investment reporting requirement -- from $500,000 to $5,000,000 -- should, when implemented, encourage U.S. investment in the country, which is also known as Burma.
    "Burma reached a historic milestone over the last year by holding competitive elections and peacefully transitioning to a democratically-elected government. Our actions today demonstrate our strong support for this political and economic progress while continuing to pressure designated persons in Burma to change their behavior," Adam Szubin, Acting Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, said in the statement.
    "These steps will help to facilitate trade with non-sanctioned businesses and, in turn, help the people and Government of Burma achieve a more inclusive and prosperous future."

    Some restrictions remain

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    However, the Treasury is not recommending the complete abolition of sanctions, as there are still elements of the government that could be seen as obstructionist. The country's constitution guarantees the military a full 25% of seats in the Hluttaw, Myanmar's parliament. Its presence, a vestige of the previous ruling junta, is seen as opposition to the transition to a full democracy.
    The changes come after sweeping political reforms that saw the country's first in over half a century democratically-elected leader installed Htin Kyaw, a trusted aide to Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, was sworn in during a ceremony that took place at the end of March in the country's capital of Naypyidaw.
    As part of the creation of the new government, a special role for party leader and longtime democracy figurehead Aung San Suu Kyi has been created. Suu Kyi is constitutionally barred from holding the country's highest office, and will instead act as State Counselor, a role created by the Hluttaw. It is widely expected that she will act as the country's de facto leader.