Thursday, March 15, 2012

Burma Sanctions: Waiting for April 1

I was in Washington, DC, this week.  The main ASEAN-related issue discussed around town is whether Myanmar will have successful by-elections on April 1, and if so, to what extent the U.S. Burma sanctions will be lifted.  Most observers expect Aung San Suu Kyi to get into the Myanmar parliament, but what she does after that remains a mystery. If she immediately calls for a complete end to the Burma sanctions, we can expect the U.S. Congress to respond in kind. However, most observers expect her to call for some moderated lifting of sanctions in order to maintain some leverage with the Myanmar regime.  The religious and ethnic issues, which some conservative U.S. politicians had cited in their support of Burma sanctions, appears to be of lesser priority these days.

In any event, I expect the U.S. to also take its cue from what the EU does.  The EU is scheduled in April to issue its annual review and renewal of its own sanctions.  If the April by-elections are even reasonably successful, we can expect the EU to relax its own, looser sanctions later in the month.  U.S. officials are aware that U.S. business will be losing out on opportunities in Myanmar and will at least offer some greater administrative clarity on what they can and cannot do. Nevertheless, the eventual lifting of U.S. Burma sanctions will take months to accomplish even on an expedited schedule.

Here’s some other ASEAN Economic Community news from this week: