News / Asia

Burma Hopes for US Return to Textile Industry

Burma Hopes for US Return to Textile Industryi
X
March 06, 2013 5:45 PM
Before the United States began imposing trade sanctions against Burma, more than half of the country's textiles were exported to American consumers. With the suspension of U.S. sanctions, hopes are high that U.S. orders will revive the market. But garment industry insiders say U.S. labor and safety standards mean the process will be a slow one. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Rangoon.
Daniel Schearf
Before the United States began imposing trade sanctions against Burma, more than half of the country's textiles were exported to American consumers.  With the suspension of U.S. sanctions, hopes are high that U.S. orders will revive the market.  But garment industry insiders say U.S. labor and safety standards mean the process will be a slow one. 

Shaking off the dust

It is the first time Aung Win has returned to a former textile factory since U.S. sanctions forced it to close down a decade ago.

The vice chairman of the Myanmar Garment Manufacturer's Association says the factory used to produce polo shirts and other knit clothing for American retail giants such as Kmart and Walmart.

But, when U.S. orders stopped, he says more than half of Burma's 300 textile factories closed down and thousands of jobs were lost.

"The quantity that we are receiving for these last few years the order quantity is small and the style is so many.  So, everyone is waiting for the U.S. order because the quantity is big," Aung Win said. "So, the factory can make more money."

Most of the remaining manufacturers switched to supplying Korean and Japanese markets.

That has kept the industry afloat, but many acknowledge Asian suppliers have looser factory labor standards that may not meet U.S. requirements.

Meeting U.S. standards

Park Choong Youl, owner of World Apparel company, says the return of the American market is an opportunity for all.

"If the United States lifts the sanction on Burma, then the level of the garment business will be upgraded," he explained. "I wish to receive orders from the U.S. as soon as possible.  The owners of other companies also want the U.S. to lift sanctions as soon as possible so they too can work on orders for the U.S."

Garment association chairman Aung Win says reaching U.S. compliance requirements can take up to a year and can be expensive.

Costly generators, to deal with frequent power cuts, and having to source materials from China puts the squeeze on smaller companies like Princess Power Manufacturing.

Princess Power Manufacturing Director Tun Tun says they want to attract U.S. investment, management, and technology but they have to first meet standards for environmental protection, welfare, and labor.

"If we can meet those criteria they will place orders.  But, we are now just on the beginning of the changes.  Maybe some of our factories they have already established the criteria set by the U.S., I mean U.S. investors," Tun Tun said. "Maybe some of us are not ready yet.  But, we have to make changes."

Economic officer at the U.S. Embassy in Rangoon Machut Shishak, says he thinks American businesses can regain their lost ground in Burma.

"I think part of that is a desire to diversify their source of production, out of China out of Cambodia, perhaps to reduce the exposure to different sole dependence on particular countries, to diversify that. And, also there are some advantages here despite the challenges."

Burma's garment manufacturers say once U.S. investment arrives their main concern will be increased wage costs and competition for workers.

You May Like

Video British Fighters on Frontline of Islamic State Information War

It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for Islamic State alongside other foreign jihadists More

Pakistan's Political Turmoil Again Shines Spotlight on Military

Thousands of protesters calling for PM Sharif to step down continue protests in front of parliament, as critics fear political impasse could spur another military coup More

Photogallery Ebola Quarantines Spark Anxiety in Liberian Capital

Food prices rise sharply as residents attempting purchases clash with security forces, leaving one person dead More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Native Bees May Help Save Cropsi
X
Deborah Block
August 22, 2014 12:23 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video Native Bees May Help Save Crops

U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video US Defense Officials Plan for Long-Term Strategy to Contain Islamic State

U.S. defense officials say American air strikes in Iraq have helped deter Islamic State militants for the time being, but that a broad international effort is needed to defeat the extremists permanently. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned Thursday that the group formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, is better organized, and financially and militarily stronger than any other known terrorist group. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug-Resistant Malaria Spreads in Southeast Asia

On Thailand’s border with Myanmar, also known as Burma, a malaria research and treatment clinic is stepping up efforts to eliminate a drug-resistant form of the parasite - before it spreads abroad. Steve Sandford reports from Mae Sot, Thailand.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid