News / Asia

    US to Lift Burma Import Ban

    U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is handed an envelope from Burma's President Thein Sein as they meet in New York  Sept. 26, 2012.
    U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is handed an envelope from Burma's President Thein Sein as they meet in New York Sept. 26, 2012.
    VOA News
    U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says Washington will take steps to lift a ban on imports from Burma in response to continued reforms by the country's military-backed government.

    At a meeting on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, Clinton told Burma's President Thein Sein that the U.S. will "begin the process" of easing restrictions on Burmese goods into the United States.

    The move, to be made with the cooperation of Congress, would represent the removal of the last major U.S. trade sanction against Burma, which is recovering from decades of political and economic isolation.

    It follows recent U.S. decisions to restore diplomatic relations and lift sanctions on U.S. investment in Burma.

    President Thein Sein, who has overseen a wave of reforms since taking power last year, said he was "very grateful" and that the Burmese people are "very pleased" with the American moves.

    Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi last week expressed her support for lifting the import ban, saying further easing of sanctions would help the Burmese people. Clinton said Wednesday the move was made in part because of requests from both the government and the opposition.

    Bo Hla Tint, Burma analyst and former foreign minister of the Washington-based Burma government-in-exile, says he expects the move will, over time, benefit Burma's poverty-stricken population.

    "The United States is one of the biggest markets not only for Burma, but also for other countries in the Asian region," he said. "So it will be very helpful."

    Bo Hla Tint says Burma is probably not ready to begin building factories that would produce clothing and other textiles that could be imported to the United States. But he says the move is important because it could persuade Burma's leaders to continue making democratic reforms.

    Since taking power in March of last year, the government of Thein Sein, a former general, has begun releasing political prisoners, relaxing censorship and opening dialogue with the democratic opposition and armed ethnic minority groups.

    But Washington has continued to push Burma to take further steps, including releasing all remaining political prisoners, making peace deals with ethnic groups and ending suspected ties with North Korea's military.

    Jennifer Quigley of the Washington-based U.S. Campaign for Burma says that she is disappointed at the lifting of the import ban, but she acknowledges that it will have some positive impact.

    "There will be some jobs available to some of those in the urban areas that were previously not there. But our bigger concern is that the very last piece of leverage against the Burmese military is now gone," said Quigley. "And sanctions were imposed for human rights and political reasons, so it doesn't really leave any opportunity to apply any pressure going forward for the big problems that remain in the country."

    Some observers have speculated that Washington is partly motivated to renew relations with Burma as part of its strategic pivot towards Asia, which is seen by many as an attempt to counter the rising influence of China.

    You May Like

    Clinton, Trump and the 'Woman’s Card'

    Ask supporters of Democratic front-runner in US presidential campaign, and they’ll tell you Republican presidential candidate is playing a dangerous hand

    Russian Censorship Group Seeks Chinese Help to Better Control Internet

    At recent Safe Internet League forum in Moscow, speakers from both nations underscored desire for authorities to further limit and control information online

    Video Makeshift Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Free classes in Islamabad park serve a few of the country’s nearly 25 million out-of-school youths; NGO cites ‘education crisis’

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora