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US Sanctions Harm Burma Garment Industry and Do Nothing for Democracy

A report released by the International Crisis Group highlighted the negative impact of United States sanctions on the Burmese garment industry. It said that the sanctions are restricting growth, and failing to achieve their main objective of punishing the military and political elites in Burma. Relaxing the sanctions would grow the Burmese economy. This would support democratization efforts by spreading wealth more evenly among the population.

Many nations including the European Union have ended or suspended sanctions against the small Southeast Asian nation since it began its program of economic and political liberalization last year. In contrast, the United States recently introduced legislation in an updated CAFTA-DR trade bill to extend the right of the president to impose sanctions on Burma.

Exporters and industrialists are eager to tap Burma’s educated and cheap labor force and to take advantage of its strategic geographic location. The Burmese elite seems happy to oblige, with the implementation of rapid market liberalization programs and strong state support for garment exporters. However, for US firms to take full advantage of growth in Burma sanctions will have to be relaxed or ended.