The United States will lift Executive Order-based sanctions on Burma, which have been in place for nearly twenty years. President Barack Obama made the announcement after meeting in the Oval Office with former Burmese political prisoner and now State Counsellor for Burma Aung San Suu Kyi.
In welcoming the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, President Obama spoke of the remarkable journey Burma has made in recent years, a journey helped in part by the advocacy of the United States and others in the international community, but most of all “because of the courage and strength and resilience of the Burmese people.” Milestones on that journey have been a transition from a military dictatorship to elections that brought Aung San Suu Kyi herself into the government; as well as a representative legislature that, despite constraints, is, President Obama said, “giving voice to the hopes and dreams of a new generation of Burmese people.”
Lifting the sanctions, he added, “is the right thing to do in order to ensure that the people of Burma see rewards from a new way of doing business and a new government.”
The United States is also restoring Burma’s trade benefits under the Generalized System of Preferences, which provides commercial and trading advantages for poor and developing countries as they enter into the global economy. Burma’s benefits were removed in 1989 after the military junta cracked down on pro-democracy protesters.
President Obama said that reinstating trade benefits for Burma, along with lifting economic and financial sanctions, will give U.S. businesses and non-profit institutions greater incentives to invest and participate in what the U.S. hopes “will be an increasingly democratic and prosperous partner for us in the region.”
Burma still faces significant challenges, including a long-standing civil conflict and discrimination against the ethnic Rohingya minority in Rakhine State. The new government has committed to tackling Burma’s long-standing issues inherited from the previous government. President Obama praised Aung San Suu Kyi for convening a peace conference to address armed conflict in the country and reaching out to ethnic minorities, including the Rohingya, who have faced discrimination.
“We are very hopeful about the future,” said President Obama. “More work remains to be done, but [Burma] is on the right track.”