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EU to Give Myanmar $3M To Boost Garment Sector

The European Union is continuing its commitment to better Myanmar’s fledgling garment sector with a 2.8 million euro ($3.04 million) investment for development.

Myanmar will get the money as part of the EU-funded SMART Myanmar, an organization that promotes and supports the sustainable production of “Made in Myanmar” garments.

The next phase of the SMART project, which kicks off next week according to the Myanmar Times, will provide technical support and capacity building via workshops for factory employers.

“We will not be focusing on labor disputes in the garment sector but we will only focus on developing the sector and providing professional support for MGMA [Myanmar Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association],” SMART project director Simone Lehmann told the Times.

SMART has its sights set on boosting productivity and creating as many as 300,000 jobs for low-skilled workers in Myanmar’s garment sector in the next two years.

Since SMART launched in 2013, the country has doubled its garment sector exports, thanks in part to Gap, which started making for its Old Navy and Banana Republic brands in Myanmar in 2014 after the country began transitioning to a democracy following years of military rule.

Myanmar’s low-cost labor and manufacturing legacy have earned it renewed attention as a manufacturing country, but compliance and labor problems, coupled with lingering sanctions continue to stunt the country’s growth in trade.

Now that Myanmar is under new rule following its first free nationwide elections in 25 years, the U.S. is also working to boost its economic position.

In December, the U.S. said it would ease remaining trade restrictions on Myanmar so that shipments could move more freely through the nation’s ports and airports.

The move, though temporary, was designed to help support the newly elected government and increase trade, but the U.S. said it would consider an extension of the six-month sanction relief early this year.