Dutch businesses keen for deals in Myanmar

A DOZEN Dutch companies took part in the Netherlands’ first trade mission to Myanmar last week, reflecting keen interest to expand business ties.

Dutch ambassador Wouter Jurgens said the mission, from June 7-9, was part of efforts to build on these relations.

Jurgens said the Dutch companies discussed opportunities with Myanmar business people in a range of sectors
including agriculture, integrated water management, banking, engineering, port development, furniture, medical care and security printing.

“We are very happy that a lot |of Myanmar companies signed up for the business-matching event, even more than what we could handle,” he said in an interview. “Many Dutch companies came here to look for partners. First, we need to build contact and then proceed to the contract.

“There are many different opportunities in Myanmar, and many different Dutch companies are responding to them. They are eager to come exactly at the right moment. It is a really good opportunity for Dutch companies to link up with Myanmar businesses. Hopefully the contracts will follow soon.”

The ambassador hailed the trade mission as a new chapter in bilateral relations, which started as early as 1947. The Netherlands is the ninth largest foreign investor in Myanmar, with 18 enterprises approved by Myanmar Investment Commission that have brought in US$1.4 billion in initial capital.

Bilateral trade reached US$140 million in fiscal 2016-17, to March 31, official statistics show. Jurgens believes this figure will at least double by 2020.

He said more than 200 Dutch businesses had shown their interest in exploring the Asean market, particularly Myanmar, at a recent Asean business event in The Hague. He said some of Dutch big names – including Shell, Unilever, Heineken and Philips – have been doing business in Myanmar since its period of isolation, and have a lot of confidence in the opportunities in the country.

“Myanmar is absolutely ready for foreign investment thanks to big efforts made by the government to upgrade their laws and regulations. Dutch companies have a lot of experience in Asia,” Jurgens said. “They know the business climate in general. What they are looking for is some clarity about the regulatory framework.

“The investment law is an important part of that. Now the by-law in implementation is also important. They need to see that their investment is protected in the right way, and that it moves ahead when they are here. We are confident in this [regard], as a lot of steps have been taken.”

According to Jurgens, Dutch firms are looking at different sectors. He considers agriculture the most promising sector, as most Myanmar people still depend on the sector and the Netherlands is the second largest agricultural exporter in the world.

Jurgens also hopes to share the Dutch expertise in water management. Myanmar showed its interest in that area during a visit by Vice President Henry Van Thio in April.

“Although we realise that Myanmar is still not a very easy market, we are confident that we can make a difference with our unique aid and trade approach,” he said.

“I cannot look into the future but I can judge it from the interest that we see. We are looking at very good prospects here.”

Maung Maung Lay, vice president of the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said Myanmar expected knowledge sharing, technology transfer, credibility and accountability from Dutch businesses.

He urged Dutch businesses to invest in Myanmar, as it made efforts to leapfrog after nearly six decades of isolation.

“The transformation process already started in Myanmar. From caterpillar to butterfly, we will never be a caterpillar again,” he said.

Source: Eleven