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

China Investigates Former Powerful Security Chief

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, under investigation for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid