Interview: U Than Myint
To what extent has the trade dispute between the US and China impacted the attractiveness of Myanmar as an investment destination?
U THAN MYINT: The trade dispute has created a more favourable investment environment for Myanmar as China looks to alternative markets for its products. To fully take advantage of this, the government and private sector should increase outreach to their Chinese counterparts and highlight how our country has made strides in creating a welcoming business environment for investors. US tariffs have also caused some industries to relocate from China, and Myanmar would be a natural new home for these companies. As a nation, however, we must be wary of unfair competition. We must create and enforce regulations that protect against this.
China is ASEAN’s largest trading partner, but the US is an important partner as well. The trade war has had a visible impact on China’s exports to the US and, as such, goods produced in South-east Asia are becoming more attractive to US consumers. We should take this chance to promote trade relations with both countries. Our first priority should be to attract Western firms that may be looking to relocate out of China, and the second should be to increase exports of goods to China that had previously been supplied by the US. Underlying this focus is the National Export Strategy (NES) 2015-19, which was based on seven priority sectors and four cross-sectors, while focusing on supply, business environment and market entry issues. The new NES 2020-25 will help diversify our export portfolio, stimulate innovation and promote technology acquisition.
What will make Myanmar businesses more globally competitive and compliant with international corporate governance norms?
THAN MYINT: The government has been instituting a series of gradual yet radical reforms aimed at accelerating structural change and economic development. In spite of these concerted efforts, challenges with competitiveness and international corporate governance norms remain. The insufficient supply of electricity is one of the major factors that make us uncompetitive globally, as it increases the cost and time needed to manufacture. Fixing this issue has been a top priority, as well as addressing existing weaknesses in logistics and connectivity infrastructure. The private sector must also adopt more comprehensive and effective utilisation of ICT into daily business practices, in order to realise the innovation and efficiency dividends inherent in new technology. Above all, however, peace and security must be the foundation for inclusive and sustainable development for all communities in Myanmar. The government has worked towards each and every one of these ends, and our regulatory environment has made especially strong gains.
How will the Myanmar Competition Commission (MmCC) improve the business environment?
THAN MYINT: The main objective of the MmCC is to create a free and fair business environment. The Myanmar Competition Law was enacted in 2015, and the MmCC builds on the momentum the legislative reform created. Created in October 2018, the MmCC is a young agency with a focus on institution building. We have engaged technical officers and experienced staff from across the government to work together to create a highly competent and agile department.
We have had some difficulties in both creating awareness around the commissioning and explaining the reasoning behind it. Enforcing compliance is a broad, challenging job that requires the involvement of many actors and stakeholders. With the support of local and international partner organisations, we are drafting a master plan to outline awareness activities and the implementation of the competition agenda.
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