U.S. suspends sanctions on investment in Myanmar

Thu May 17, 2012 10:49pm GMT

By Andrew Quinn and Paul Eckert

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States on Thursday suspended sanctions barring U.S. investment in Myanmar in response to political reforms in the poor southeast Asian state, drawing praise from some U.S. lawmakers but criticism from human rights advocates.

"Today we say to American business: invest in Burma and do it responsibly," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said.

She appeared with Myanmar's Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin, on his long-isolated nation's first official visit to Washington in decades as ties between the two countries warm rapidly.

Clinton said Washington would issue a general license to permit U.S. investments across Myanmar's economy, and U.S. energy, mining and financial service companies were all now free to look for opportunities in the nation formerly known as Burma.

But Clinton stressed that the laws underpinning U.S. sanctions on Myanmar would remain as Washington seeks to maintain its leverage while pushing the reclusive country's government further on democratic reforms.

"We are suspending sanctions. We believe that is the appropriate step for us to take today," Clinton said.

"We will be keeping the relevant laws on the books as an insurance policy, but our goal and our commitment is to move as rapidly as we can to expand business and investment opportunities."

Elaborating on the policy shift, President Barack Obama said Washington would work to "ensure that those who abuse human rights, engage in corruption, interfere with the peace process, or obstruct the reform process do not benefit from increased engagement with the United States."   Continued...

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (R) speaks to reporters next to Myanmar's Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin after their meeting at the State Department in Washington May 17, 2012. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
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