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EU Lifts Burma Trade Embargo, But Exports Won’t Improve

The EU has now permanently lifted its trade and economic sanctions against Burma, citing the “changes that have taken place and in the expectation that they will continue,” in reference Burma’s recent progress toward democratic governance. The EU’s arms embargo will remain in place; still, Human Rights Asia has called the EU’s actions “premature and regrettable.”

A statement released by the EU noted that Burma faces “significant challenges”, especially regarding its minority Muslim population. Last month, at least 43 Muslims were killed by Buddhist rioters while local police officers stood idly by.

UK Foreign Secretary William Hague acknowledged that Burma’s problems are serious, but said that progress has been sufficiently substantial to warrant the embargo’s end. President Thein Sein, elected in 2010, has been lauded for his political reforms–since his election, censorship has become less rampant, and many political prisoners has been freed.

Burmese garment exports to the EU have dropped significantly in recent years, but Clothesource CEO Mike Flanagan told just-style that the embargo’s lift “won’t stimulate European garment imports from Burma.” Although the decision will remove the average 12% import tax on Burmese garments, Flanagan stated that low productivity, poor exchange rates, power shortages, and inadequate transportation will keep Burma from positive growth.