Washington cuts sanctions on Myanmar ahead of democratic transition

YANGON - The US has temporarily lifted certain trade sanctions on Myanmar, aiming to reinvigorate trade and support a peaceful political transition after a historic victory by democratic leader Aung San Suu Kyi's party in November elections.

The US Treasury Department maintains a list of "Specially Designated Nationals" with ties to Myanmar's military. US companies are prohibited from doing business with them or entities they own. Many of Myanmar's largest companies -- including port and airport operators -- are so designated.

But as of Monday, US companies are allowed to temporarily use ports and other logistics facilities owned by SDNs for bilateral trade. The exception is set to expire in June, but is widely expected to be extended if Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy's transition to power goes smoothly next spring.

Myanmar's largest seaport, the Asia World Port Terminal here, is among the country's newly usable facilities. Asia World, the port operator's parent, is blacklisted as an SDN. US companies are still banned from doing business with the firm, but may now use the port. Logistics facilities Asia World runs at Yangon International Airport and elsewhere are also likely now usable.

The exception will certainly expand US-Myanmar trade, and will also likely give a boost to non-American companies looking to set up shop in the country. Dealing with Myanmar will now pose less of a risk to companies' reputations in the US, making the shift an excellent chance to boost investment in the Southeast Asian country, a Japanese trading house official noted.

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