Apr 25, 2011

EU business' "forbidden" love with Myanmar

The luxury crystal and jewellery house Swarovski was among two dozen European companies that recently visited Myanmar on business trip. The Austrian ambassador to Thailand and Myanmar, Dr Johannes Peterlik, headed the delegation, which his embassy said was an "economic fact-finding trip".

In addition to Swarovski, which described itself in a PowerPoint presentation prepared for its Myanmar hosts and obtained by The Independent as "one of the world's leading producers of cut crystal, genuine gemstones and created stones", the Austrian delegation included P&P Consulting, which called itself a defence and security consultant looking for "industry or government customers" and Roxel RMG, which trades in "forest products".

The delegation, which was met by the Union of Myanmar Federation Chamber of Commerce, also included a commodity trading company, a manufacturer of firefighting machines, a leading bank and a health care specialist.

The trip, which is believed to be the first of several from EU countries, included a site visit to Yangon's Hlaing Tharyar industrial zone where delegates toured a pharmaceutical factory and the city's famed Shwedagon pagoda.

The trip concluded with a visit to the luxury Pun Hlaing golf estate owned by Myanmar real estate mogul Serge Pun. Both he and Mr Peterlik gave a presentation and the visit ended with dinner. A photograph on the website of Mr Pun's company shows him handing a painting of a traditional Myanmar pagoda to the smiling ambassador.

With China, India, South Korea and Thailand already well established in Myanmar, which has rich energy supplies and natural resources, several EU corporations are pressing to enter the market, but are not permitted because of the economic sanctions imposed on the country by the EU bureaucrats in Brussels.

Thomas Polacek, Asia sales manager for Roxel RMG, said he believed Myanmar had become a "Chinese colony" with any major projects undertaken by Chinese firms. "If, as Europeans, we want to sit back and watch others do business, that is one way... but there is a big debate within Brussels about this," he said.

Source: "The Independent" with contribution by Myanmar Business News