Work on China-Myanmar border zone begins in Muse

By FRONTIER

YANGON — Work on the first of three planned trade zones on the Myanmar-China border is reportedly underway in Muse, Shan State, ahead of a scheduled meeting between government officials from the two countries at a trade expo next month.

Business-to-business meetings will also be held at the expo, whose focus is the development of the border zones at Muse, Kanpiketee in Kachin State and Chinshwehaw in the Kokang Self-Administered Zone, Deputy Minister for Commerce U Aung Htoo was quoted in state media as saying.

“The border trade zone will be set up on the lines of the Thilawa Special Economic Zone implemented by the two governments, which saw participation from entrepreneurs,” Aung Htoo said, according to the Global New Light of Myanmar. “Invitations for expressions of interest will be soon issued and a feasibility study will be undertaken for the zone.”

The Thilawa Special Economic Zone on Yangon’s southeastern outskirts is being developed by a consortium of Japanese and Myanmar companies in partnership with both governments and has attracted many foreign manufacturers by offering tax breaks and other incentives.

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Aung Htoo, who is also the secretary of a central committee established to implement the border zones, said fencing had been assembled around the Jiegao border gate and would also be installed around a project by New Star Light, a trading and construction group with interests across Mandalay and northern Myanmar.

New Star Light’s project in Muse, which was launched in 2016, comprises a new city centre, public facilities, a commercial district, villas and high-end residential developments on 294 acres of land along the Myanmar-China border.

Myanmar and China agreed to establish the three border trade zones during a visit to China by State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in August 2016 and a memorandum of understanding was signed in May 2017.

The zones will form part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, an ambitious infrastructure project that aims to connect China to Europe via Asia through overland and maritime trading routes.

On November 8 Myanmar signed an agreement with China’s state-run CITIC Group to begin work on a deep-sea port in Rakhine State’s Kyaukphyu Township that will form a pivotal part of BRI, after negotiations that saw the initial phase of the project scaled back over fears it was a debt trap, according to Reuters.

The newswire quoted Deputy Minister for Planning and Finance U Set Aung as saying the cost of the first phase was estimated at US$1.3 billion. CITIC won a tender under the former government in 2015 to build a deep-sea port and special economic zone with a combined price tag of around $10 billion.

Set Aung told reporters at a press conference in Nay Pyi Taw that the deep-sea port would be implemented “phase by phase” and that international experts would be involved in the social and environmental impact assessments.

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