04/19/2013, 00.00
EUROPEAN UNION - MYANMAR
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EU to drop economic and trade sanctions against Myanmar

The measure will be put to a vote next week in recognition of the country's "remarkable process of reform" in the past two years. The arms embargo will stay in place however. The move will give Myanmar an opportunity to boost trade opportunities and break the stranglehold of China and India, putting pressure on Washington.

Brussels (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Next week, the European Union is expected to lift all sanctions on Myanmar, except for an arms embargo, in recognition of the country's "remarkable process of reform", Reuters reported on Wednesday, citing a EU document. This comes a year after the EU agreed to suspend most of its sanctions against Myanmar in response to a radical series of reforms launched in March 2011 that met with the favour of the international community. The step, which was agreed by EU ambassadors on Wednesday, paves the way for ministerial approval on Monday.

New opportunities for trade and investments with resource-rich (gas and minerals) Myanmar could be created by the EU decision. Until now, the Asian country has had to rely primarily on other Asian nations like India, Thailand, and especially China. The EU decision would "open a new chapter in its relations with Myanmar, building a lasting partnership," the document said.

The move, some analysts note, could put pressure on the United States, which suspended sanctions in May last year and allowed US companies to invest through a general licence. Since then, some American executives have urged Washington to go further and lift sanctions entirely to remove an element of uncertainty over their investments.

The EU had frozen the assets of nearly 1,000 companies and institutions in Myanmar and banned almost 500 people from entering the EU.

Although favourable to President Thein Sein's economic and political reforms, which enhanced personal freedoms and allowed Aung San Suu Kyi to return to national politics and be elected to parliament, the European Union wants Myanmar to continue its democratic transformation, boost the fight against corruption, and release unconditionally its remaining political prisoners.

Lastly, European leaders have called for an end to sectarian and ethnic violence in the Asian country, which has left 50 people dead in recent weeks.

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