Myanmar: A new frontier of trade and investment for Canadian business

| April 20, 2014 | 0 Comments
A market in Yangon, the capital of Myanmar.

A market in Yangon, the capital of Myanmar.

Over the past two years, soon after Myanmar embarked on the path of democratic transformation and economic reforms, many positive and significant developments have taken place in Myanmar-Canada bilateral relations.
The year 2012, in particular, ushered in a new relationship between the two countries. Foreign Minister John Baird was the first Canadian foreign minister to pay an official visit to Myanmar when he travelled to the country in March 2012. In return, Foreign Minister U Wunna Maung Lwin came to Ottawa in October, 54 years after the two countries established diplomatic relations in 1958. One month prior, Trade Minister Ed Fast visited Myanmar and opened a new chapter in trade and commercial relations between Canada and Myanmar.
Moreover, Canada suspended economic sanctions imposed against Myanmar, opened an embassy in Yangon and appointed its first resident ambassador in 2013. A trade commissioner was also sent to Myanmar and there were several parliamentary exchanges. The emergence of such a positive political climate and diplomatic rapprochement has strengthened the friendship, understanding and co-operation between the two countries.
My country’s dramatic political and economic reforms have opened up great opportunities for business and investments. In particular, we’re looking for companies with capital and technological know-how to further our economic development and create employment. We’ve just adopted a new foreign investment law that is transparent, clear, simplified and investor-friendly. It will take just a few days for companies to establish a business. To further facilitate investment, we’ve established a one-stop service centre in Yangon to assist with and facilitate investors’ requirements.
Myanmar is a country the size of Texas, but with a population of more than 60 million. It is strategically located between two huge consumer markets — China and India. It is also a member of ASEAN, the fastest-growing market of about 600 million people. Moreover, being positioned at the gateway to India and Bangladesh from Southeast Asia, Myanmar will serve as a bridge between South Asia and Southeast Asia. In short, Myanmar sits in the midst of more than two billion people, living in one of the fastest-growing markets in the world.
My country is also known for its abundant natural resources, such as oil and gas, gold, minerals, precious stones and lumbers. Its long coastlines and vast fertile lands are ideal for fisheries and agriculture. Besides, Myanmar can provide young, intelligent and relatively cheap labour. We are also expanding service sectors such as tourism, telecommunications, banking and financial services, health care, education and infrastructure.
We are promoting responsible investments with an aim of building investors’ confidence. We are taking steps to practise the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative and the concept of corporate social responsibility is now widely accepted. According to the Economist Corporate Network’s recent Asia Economic Outlook 2014, Myanmar is the fourth most preferred investment destination in Asia after China, Indonesia and India.
In recent years, a growing number of Canadian companies and organizations have been exploring business opportunities in Myanmar. Sixteen companies from Canada have so far invested $46.07 million, just 0.1 percent of total foreign direct investment. I would like to encourage more Canadian investment in areas where Canada has comparative advantage, such as extractive industries, infrastructure, agriculture, value-added and high-tech industries and capital-intensive industries.
There is ample room to improve current bilateral trade, although it is on an upward trend. Trade between Myanmar and Canada for the 2012-2013 financial year totalled $10 million, an 84.7-percent increase from the previous year. Myanmar exported $2.8 million worth of fish, garments, rice, beans and pulses to Canada. Myanmar’s imports from Canada were valued at $7.2 million. The main items of import included telephone and communication devices, unmilled wheat seed, pulp, aircraft and parts. As Myanmar’s economy is rapidly expanding, there are good opportunities to further promote bilateral trade of new commodities in the future. In this regard, we look forward to the Canadian government re-granting generalized system of preferences (GSP) status to Myanmar, which will significantly benefit our exporters.
I wish to emphasize that this is the best time for Canada to seize the golden opportunity to invest and do business in Myanmar. Canadian investment and strengthened economic co-operation with Myanmar will not only bring mutual economic benefit, but will also help Myanmar’s democratic transition and reform process.

Hau Do Suan is the ambassador of Myanmar. He can be reached at meottawa@rogers.com or (613) 232-9990.

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Hau Do Suan is the ambassador of Myanmar. He can be reached at meottawa@rogers.com or (613) 232-9990.

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