US could waive duties on imports from Myanmar

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - The United States (US) is reviewing trade relations with Myanmar in a move that could end import duties on thousands of goods from the Southeast Asian country, which Acting US Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis is due to visit on Wednesday.

Shortly before Mr Marantis' departure for Asia last week, the US Trade Representative's office initiated the review, which could add both Myanmar and Laos to the Generalised System of Preferences program, which provides duty-free treatment for up to 5,000 goods from 128 countries and territories.

Mr Marantis will meet government officials and business leaders in Yangon, previously known as Rangoon, and the capital of Naypyidaw.

The review is part of the Obama administration's efforts to help Myanmar's leaders create jobs.

The US has already rewarded Myanmar for political reform by lifting long-time economic sanctions and easing most of its ban on imports from the country.

Both governments recently have expressed interest in the Generalized System of Preferences program, USTR said in a Federal Register notice. The notice asked for public comment and scheduled a hearing for early June.

The United States imported US$275 million (S$341 million) worth of clothing and other goods from Myanmar in 2003 before an import ban was imposed.

In the months since most of the restrictions were lifted, there has been a trickle of imports, including US$100,000 in January and US$200,000 in February.

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