US lifts trade restrictions on Myanmar shipping hubs for 6 months to boost opposition party win

Workers chat near a ship at Asia World port in Yangon, Myanmar.
Workers chat near a ship at Asia World port in Yangon, Myanmar.PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - The United States is temporarily easing trade restrictions on Myanmar by allowing all shipments to go through its ports and airports for six months, an effort to boost the country's opposition party after its landmark election win in November, US officials said on Monday.

The trade relief, coming after democracy champion Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy won Myanmar's historic election, applies to even port terminals and airports controlled by entities on the US sanctions blacklist, the officials said.

Reuters exclusively reported last month that major US banks such as Citigroup, Bank of America and PNC Financial were cutting trade finance in Myanmar after discovering that the Southeast Asian country's most important trade terminal - the Asia World port terminal - is controlled by a businessman on Washington's sanctions blacklist.

A senior administration official said Monday's move was potentially "the single most important thing that we can do on the economic front immediately to give the NLD some breathing space over the next several months as it forms its government".