Canada considers preferential tariff system for Myanmar

The Canadian government has considered drawing up a preferential tariff system for Myanmar, Canada’s Minister for International Trade Edward Fast revealed last week.

Mr Fast met with Win Aung, chairperson of the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chamber of Commerce and Industry, at the Grand Amara Hotel in Nay Pyi Taw on August 27.

He said discussions were underway to grant Myanmar a Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) – tariff concessions for least developed countries, plus advance investment in Myanmar and trade. Canada has drafted a Global Market Plan and Myanmar was one of 25 countries that would gain preferential treatment.

Myanmar once enjoyed preferential tariffs from the European Union, but these were withdrawn in 1997 after complaints about forced labour in the country. However, GSP benefits resumed in June last year, after Myanmar’s democratic reforms.

At present, 128 countries enjoy some sorts of preferential tariffs and 77 of them – including Myanmar – are classed the least developed states.

Spain, Germany, the UK, Italy and the Netherlands give many privileges to Myanmar via a GSP. The country has also benefitted from preferential treatment from Belgium, Denmark, France, Ireland, Australia and Sweden.

Under the GSP with the European Union, Myanmar is allowed to export any product except arms to EU states with special trade privileges and can get imports from them tariff-free.

More investors will come from Canada if Myanmar improves its governance systems, the Canadian Minister for International Trade Ed Fast has said.

When considering trade and investment in Myanmar, Canadian companies want a transparent business environment and clear rules and regulations, he told reporters at a press conference. As the governance in Myanmar improves, more companies from Canada will invest here, he said.

In a meeting with Fast, Myanmar ministers invited investments in mining, energy, food security, manufacturing and telecommunications, saying that Canadian firms played leading roles in those sectors.

Mr Fast said the Canadian government was satisfied with Myanmar’s democratic, social, economic reforms and its peace process. News that there were many business opportunities in Myanmar would be shared upon his return, he said.

Early this month Canada opened an embassy in Myanmar for the first time, with their foreign minister John Baird attending the opening ceremony on August 8.

Currently, trade between the two countries is small. Last year, Canadian exports to Myanmar reached US$8.03 million (Ks 7.81 billion), while import totaled $8.05 million. There has been no direct investment between the two countries over the past two years.

Canada has had diplomatic ties with Myanmar since 1958. It opened the Canadian Embassy and Trade Commission Office in Yangon last year.


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