May 12, 2011

Myanmar Chamber of Commerce: European businesses consider investing in Myanmar

European businesses involved in the first EU-ASEAN Business Summit showed considerable interest in investing in Myanmar, participants in Jakarta said last week.

The business summit, held on May 5 at the Jakarta Convention Center ahead of the ASEAN Summit on May 7-8, featured business delegates and ministers from the European Union and ASEAN and was aimed at exploring opportunities to boost bilateral trade and investment.

U Win Aung, president of the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry, told The Myanmar Times members of the EU delegation were looking closely at Myanmar’s manufacturing, energy, mining and agriculture sectors.

“This summit was important, especially for networking and creating opportunities to improve Myanmar’s economic growth,” U Win Aung said.

“We also wanted to learn [the EU delegations’] thoughts on Myanmar’s investment environment. Any comments made related to government policy-making will be discussed with higher-level officials” back in Myanmar.

However, he said the country’s lack of infrastructure was a turnoff for potential investors.

“As Myanmar is a developing country, we still need to develop our infrastructure and also economic policy making. I would say infrastructure [development] is a never-ending process – even many developed countries face infrastructure problems.”

Mr S Pushpanathan, deputy secretary general of ASEAN’s economic community, said Myanmar’s move to democratic governance sent a positive signal to the European Union.

“There are a lot of signs that the political [situation] is changing in Myanmar. That will send positive signals to the EU and if they continue then I’m sure the EU will have to think about doing business in Myanmar because there’s so much potential there,” he said.

But Mr Pushpanathan said Myanmar needed to increase the skill levels of its workers if it wanted to attract European investors.

“EU has technology and know how, while we in the ASEAN bloc can offer low wages. That’s a win-win situation for both parties,” he said.

Dr Win Si Thu, the managing director of Medi Myanmar Group Limited, which also took part in the summit, agreed European businesses were looking closely at investing in Myanmar but he said sanctions was a stumbling block.

“When I talked with some business delegates from EU at the summit they said they were very interested to invest in Myanmar. But a problem is the EU sanctions,” he said.

“One reason I am here is to observe what role ASEAN will play in solving the EU sanctions problem, and how our new government will negotiate with EU members regarding the sanctions.”

“Our government was formed only very recently and so far I haven’t noticed any changes but I think we need to wait and see.”

The EU’s economic sanctions prohibit trade with and investment in certain sectors of the Myanmar economy, including timber, gems and jade and precious metals.

The EU is ASEAN’s second-largest trading partner, with bilateral trade of more than 147 billion euros (US$210 billion), and is the largest foreign investor in the region.

Source: Myanmar Times