In further recognition of the positive changes being made by the government of Burma, the United States has named its first ambassador to the Southeast Asian nation in 22 years and announced the intent to ease restrictions on new American investment and the provision of financial services. The moves, announced by President Barack Obama on May 17, mark a new beginning in the relationship between our two countries.
Derek Mitchell, a veteran diplomat and Asia specialist now serving as Special Representative and Policy Coordinator for Burma, will assume the duties of ambassador, formalizing diplomatic relations strained for many years. Easing economic restrictions will allow for the first time major investment by U.S. companies. Greater economic engagement between the U.S. and Burma is critical to supporting reformers in government and civil society. It will also promote broad-based economic development for the Burmese people, and bring the country out of isolation and into the international community.
Americans for decades have stood with the Burmese people in their struggle to realize the full promise of their country. In recent months we and many in the international community have been encouraged by the economic and political reforms that have taken place. As President Obama said in announcing the changes, “as the iron fist had unclenched in Burma, we have extended our hand seeking a new phase in our engagement on behalf of a more democratic and prosperous future for the Burmese people.”
The United States will continue to press for further progress in democratization, a halt to hostilities in ethnic minority areas and the unconditional release of political prisoners. That said, we are encouraged by the people of Burma’s work toward a peaceful, just and free nation, and we support their efforts.