US relaxes sanctions on Yangon Port

YANGON — The United States Treasury Department on Monday relaxed sanctions on Yangon’s blacklisted port in “response to reports of slowing trade with Burma,” but denied the measure was a “reward for the recent elections won by the National League for Democracy.”

The Treasury Department issued a General License 20 (GL 20), described as a “technical fix to ensure that exports to and from Burma resumes, while at the same time maintaining the integrity of US sanctions on SDNs (Specially Designated Nationals),” the department said in a statement issued Monday.

The US slapped sanctions on Asia World Development Port — the chief operator of Yangon port, which is the main shipping hub for the country — after discovering that the company had connections with Steven Law, who is on the USA’s blacklist.

Trade between the two countries has declined since, causing several US banks to lodge complaints with the Treasury Department since they could no longer engage in trade finance with the country.

US sanctions prohibit US companies and individuals from doing business with blacklisted Myanmar nationals, most of whom had close connections with the previous junta or allegedly made their fortunes in illicit businesses such as drug trafficking.

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While the European Union dropped all their sanctions on Myanmar in 2012, after opposition leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was allowed to contest a by-election and win a seat in Parliament, the US has kept in place certain sanctions such as the ban on dealings with SDNs or the Ministry of Defence and a ban on the import of rubies and jade from Myanmar.

It has been widely speculated that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi will ask the US to drop these remaining sanctions should her NLD party come in to office following their landslide victory in the November 8 polls. But they are unlikely to be dropped before then.       

“GL 20 is not a response to the recent election and does not signal a change in U.S. sanctions policy toward Burma,” a US State department spokesman said Monday. “Its duration is limited to six months, unless renewed or revoked.”   

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