WASHINGTON - U.S. President Barack Obama has lifted sanctions on Myanmar, saying the Southeast Asian country has made substantial advances to promote democracy.
Obama signed an executive order Friday that overturns a previous declaration calling Myanmar’s government a threat to U.S. national security.
Since historic elections last November that resulted in the former opposition party winning a majority of the seats in parliament, the president said, the situation in Myanmar has been significantly altered, including greater freedoms for the population and the release of many political prisoners.
Obama pledged he would lift sanctions last month during a visit to the White House by Myanmar’s de facto civilian leader, Aung San Suu Kyi.
The sanctions, imposed 20 years ago, prevented American firms and foreign investors using U.S. financial services from having any dealings with more than 100 businessmen tied to the former military regime — business tycoons who owned conglomerates that dominated Myanmar’s trade, banking, extractive industries, farming, tourism and airline businesses.
The legal hurdles deterred many potential foreign investors from entering Myanmar’s market, while also tainting Myanmar exports to America.
The United States also has eased some sanctions on Myanmar, formally known as Burma, as the Southeast Asian nation has made political reforms over the last several years.