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Saturday, Aug 02nd

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EC ready to reinstate trade preferences to Burma

The European Commission has adopted a proposal to bring Burma back under the so-called “Everything But Arms” preferential trade regime which would grant duty-free and quota-free access to the European market for all products except for arms and ammunitions.

The US signaled this week that it also is prepared to rescind a ban on Burmese imported products.

“Everything But Arms" is part of the EU's “Generalised System of Preferences” and it is an important scheme to help developing countries boost their economy by providing them with tariff preferences when selling on the EU market. Burma is classified as a “Least Developed Country” by the United Nations.

EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht said, “Since Myanmar/Burma started to open up earlier this year, I saw the need to underpin such deep and important changes with real economic support once key improvements for the workforce had been met.”

“Trade is fundamental to supporting political stability and the EU's trade preferences mean we will give this reform-minded country priority access to the world's largest market. That said, we will continue to engage with Myanmar/Burma to encourage continued progress on all fronts,” he said.

After many years of international isolation, the EU action means it believes the unprecedented developments now mean the time is right for Europe to open a new chapter in its relations with the former military regime, which installed an elected parliament in 2010.

The commission said that despite the many structural constraints the country continues to face, Burma should see an increase in exports to the EU market under the trade regime.

In 1997, the country was suspended from the GSP scheme as a result of its systematic violations of core international conventions on forced labour.

In June this year, the International Labour Organisation concluded that significant progress had been achieved by Burma, although some residual problems with forced labour persist.

The proposal will be submitted simultaneously to the European Council and the European Parliament for agreement