Aug 28, 2012

Canada's Trade Minister making historic visit to resource-rich Myanmar

International Trade Minister Ed Fast is embarking on a trade mission this week that will include a stop in Myanmar, making him the first Canadian trade minister to visit the resource-rich southeast Asian nation on official business.

The trade mission, intended to deepen Canada’s trade and investment ties in the region, will also include visits to Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia. Fast will co-chair the first Canada-Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Economic Ministers Meeting.

“With one in five Canadian jobs generated by trade, helping Canadian companies expand and succeed in exciting, high-growth markets is a key part of Canada’s Economic Action Plan,” Fast said in a statement Sunday.

“At the same time, as responsible corporate citizens, Canadian companies can help anchor development and reforms in developing countries that want and need Canada’s world-class products, services, experience and expertise.”

Myanmar, previously known as Burma, has undergone significant democratic reforms that have seen the ruling military junta loosen its decades-long control of the country. That control had prompted Western nations to impose sanctions in an effort to isolate it on the world stage.

But changes at the top began in 2010, including the arrival of a new president, followed by limited parliamentary elections and the release of opposition leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi from decades of house arrest.

Canada suspended its sanctions against Myanmar in April.

“Our government also believes that through cautious Canadian investment, Canada can help anchor and expand Burmese reforms while positioning our companies for future opportunities,” Fast said when he first announced the trade mission in late July.
The trip begins Monday and will wrap up the following Monday.

In mid-July, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird announced that Canada would open an embassy in Myanmar.

The recent moves from the federal government come amid an international rush for Myanmar’s natural resources. Foreign companies have sought to cash in on Myanmar’s massive mineral and gem resources, which are valued at billions of dollars, as well as its oil and gas.

Source: The Gazette