US envoy says too early to end all Myanmar sanctions
07/20/2012 11:09 GMT
YANGON, July 20, 2012 (AFP) - The new US ambassador to Myanmar said Friday that it was too soon to abolish all sanctions against the former pariah, as Congress considers extending a ban on imports from the impoverished country.
"We have said in the past, and I have said, that we endorse continuing to keep in place many of the authorities -- the sanctions authorities -- in Congress," said Derek Mitchell, who took up his new post earlier this month.
Keeping some measures in place was "an insurance policy for the future in case things reverse," he told reporters, noting the fast pace of reforms since the end of decades of military rule last year.
"We're talking about a rapid process. It's only really been a little over a year and there are still some questions about the future," he said, adding that the import ban could be revisited later if the reform process continues.
A US Senate finance committee on Wednesday backed prolonging the ban on goods made in Myanmar for three years, while preserving the government's right to waive or scrap the measures. The extension still needs full Congressional approval.
It came a week after the United States gave the green light to US companies to invest in Myanmar including in oil and gas, in its broadest and most controversial easing yet of sanctions on the country formerly known as Burma.
US companies have been pressing the Obama administration to end restrictions on investment, fearing they will lose out to European and Asian competitors that already enjoy access to the potentially lucrative economy.
Mitchell said that investment, "done according to traditional US corporate principles and values," could serve the long-term interests of the Myanmar people.
The veteran policymaker is the first US ambassador to Myanmar since Washington withdrew its envoy after a crackdown on a pro-democracy uprising in 1988 and elections won by the opposition in 1990 that were never recognised by the junta.
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