Obama considering easing or lifting sanctions, officials say

The Obama administration is considering a further relaxation of sanctions against Myanmar to coincide with a White House visit by State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi this month, US officials have told Reuters newsagency.

President Barack Obama was expected to make a decision after consultations between his administration and Suu Kyi, who is due in Washington on September 14 and 15, Reuters said in the September 3 report.

It quoted several US officials as saying Mr Ben Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national security adviser, met congressional staffers last week and told them the president was considering reducing or lifting sanctions.

Reuters said the officials spoke on condition of anonymity and the White House had declined to comment.

“We’re looking at things related to trade, investment and commerce, and trying to see what can be done to improve the investment environment in Myanmar,” a US government source said of the changes being considered.

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The measures could include adding Myanmar to the Generalized System of Preferences program, which grants trade privileges to poor and developing countries, the sources said.

Obama has already eased some sanctions on Myanmar, most recently in May when seven state-owned enterprises and three state-owned banks were removed from a blacklist. However, the executive order also saw sanctions imposed on six companies linked to the Asia World Group, a diversified conglomerate.

Reuters said a “key question” was how far Suu Kyi wanted Washington to go in relaxing pressure on the Tatmadaw.

The State Counsellor is believed to want to retain some sanctions as a form of leverage against the Tatmadaw derailing the democratic transition.

A proposal by the Union Solidarity and Development Party for the government to push for a lifting of US sanctions was roundly defeated last month in the 440-member Pyithu Hluttaw, in which the NLD holds 255 of the 330 elected seats. The move was defeated by 219 votes against, to 151 for and there were 16 abstentions.

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