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U.S. to lift trade sanctions against Myanmar

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Obama's vow to lift economic sanctions welcomed in Myanmar

US President Barack Obama moved to restore trade benefits to Myanmar, saying broader sanctions would soon be scrapped as he hosted the country's de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi at the White House Wednesday, September 14.

In November, Myanmar will be back on the list of poor and developing countries benefiting from GSP, which grants preferential tariff treatment to certain products and significant tariff reductions.

Last week, a commission Suu Kyi set up and charged with making recommendations on the situation and which is led by former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan traveled to Myanmar for the first time.

USA economic trade sanctions on the once-isolated Southeast Asian nation of Myanmar are being eased to support the country's transition toward democracy and a market economy.

Centred on Hpakant in Kachin State, Global Witness estimated Myanmar's jade trade to be worth $31 billion in off-the-books revenue for 2014, a figure equivalent to half of Myanmar's official GDP.

"Lifting restrictions on doing business with Burma's military and its corporate enterprises, as well as the friends and cronies who been enriched by their decades of rule, is not the right thing to do", said John Sifton, deputy Washington director at Human Rights Watch.

Congressional aides said that Ms Suu Kyi requested the removal of the national emergency with respect to Burma - the executive order authorising sanctions which has been renewed annually by USA presidents for two decades.

These changes are designed to create incentives for US businesses and nonprofits to invest in the country, Obama said. Many of these sanctions are targeted against the more than 100 individuals and companies linked with the leaders of the military junta who ruled in the country until 2011.

The decision is not just a matter of promoting USA businesses in Myanmar.

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The U.S. should wait to lift sanctions until Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party has had time to carry out more government and institutional reforms, said Yan Myo Thein, a Yangon-based political analyst.

Now, mining in Myanmar, also known as Burma, has been temporarily suspended until environmental impact studies can be conducted, and new licenses placed on hold.

"We think that the time has come to remove all of the sanctions that hurt us economically", she said.

Speaking at the same forum, Aung San Suu Kyi said her government was "not afraid of sanctions", and supported the minimal changes that had been made the previous week.

Congressional aides earlier said that Suu Kyi had requested the removal of the national emergency order on Myanmar - the executive order authorizing sanctions that have been renewed annually by USA presidents for two decades.

From a business perspective, sanctions legislation remains complex, and its piecemeal suspension rather than removal has inhibited many U.S. firms from considering market entry. "Her sense is that she should use her huge political mandate to push the peace process forward, transcending some of the issues that bogged it down before - and this fits with the military's approach".

"We recognize with great respect your past work in addressing the need to halt Burma state and communal violence against the very much persecuted Rohingya Muslim minority and trust that you will continue to speak out on this immediate and pressing cause".

Nevertheless, behind the scenes, Suu Kyi may still be advocating for making the removal of the last vestiges of the United States sanctions regime conditional on the military's willingness to reform the 2008 constitution, which gives the army control of several key ministries and one quarter of the seats in parliament.

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