News / Asia

Burma Hopes for US Return to Textile Industry

Burma Hopes for US Return to Textile Industryi
X
March 06, 2013
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.
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Multimedia Relatives of South Korean Ferry Victims Fire at Authorities

46 people are confirmed dead, but some 250 remain trapped inside sunken ferry More

War Legacy Haunts Vietnam, US Relations

$84 million project aims to clean up soil contaminated by Agent Orange More

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid