U Than Myint, Minister of Commerce : Interview

U Than Myint, Minister of Commerce

Interview : U Than Myint

How is Myanmar’s economy set to benefit from increasing demand from China?

U THAN MYINT: undefined In recent years Myanmar has put in place key reforms that affect the overall trade environment, integrating our economy with the global system and encouraging private participation in international trade, and also facilitating access to trade financing. As a result, trade openness, measured as total export and import value over GDP, has increased steadily, and the ratio of trade to GDP reached 52% in 2017.

China’s demand for Myanmar’s apparel, agricultural products, fisheries products and live cattle, goats and sheep, is steadily increasing and will significantly contribute to further economic development.

As Chinese demand continues to increase, our strategy is to meet it with good quality agricultural and livestock products. At present Myanmar’s main exports to China are natural gas, rice, jade, metal and ore, and corn, while from them we import machinery and spare parts, iron and steel construction materials, and mobile telecommunication devices. Since 2006 our trade cooperation has seen a significant increase thanks to the Joint Border Trade Cooperating and Coordinating Committee, which aims to enhance bilateral trade and resolve trade issues between the two countries. In addition, the increasing number of Chinese tourists in Myanmar will foster the development of the tourism sector.

Will Myanmar’s export and import partners change in a global trading environment made more complex by recent US protectionist policies?

THAN MYINT: Myanmar’s trading partners remain the same. A trade war between the world’s two largest economies could certainly have an adverse impact on developing countries’ exports, as well as on those of the least developed countries, among them Myanmar. However, ASEAN countries may have an opportunity to penetrate those two economies if bilateral trade between them comes to an end. For example, China could choose to bypass US tariffs by moving manufacturing facilities to Myanmar. Moreover, China will have to look for an alternative market in which to buy key agri-products, such as soy beans for feeding its massive hog herds. This could represent a great opportunity for Myanmar.

What products do you expect to be the most affected by the loss in value of the Myanmar kyat against the US dollar?

THAN MYINT: Most of Myanmar’s products will be more competitive in the global market as a result of the depreciation of the kyat. In 2017-18 export volumes were $14.8bn, import volumes were $18.68bn and the total trade volume was about $33.5bn. Following the guidelines of the national export strategy, we have prioritised certain sectors and have a list of products that we want to boost in terms of exports: rice, beans and oil seed, fish and crustaceans, textiles and garments, wood-based products and rubber.

However, Myanmar needs to import pharmaceuticals, construction materials, inputs for agricultural production, fuel and oil. The increased value of the US dollar, in which most of these products are traded, is therefore resulting in high inflation.

How will the government ensure local small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) are protected?

THAN MYINT: Myanmar recognises the role SMEs play in the development of the economy. In order to protect local SMEs, foreign-owned companies and joint-venture companies are permitted to operate wholesale and retail businesses only under specific rules and restrictions. Our goal is to foster competition and thereby ensure consumers have more choice and pay less. In addition to this, we aim to develop the quality of goods and services in the distribution sector, and to upgrade the local market’s technology systems.

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The Report: Myanmar 2019

Trade & Investment chapter from The Report: Myanmar 2019

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The Report

This article is from the Trade & Investment chapter of The Report: Myanmar 2019. Explore other chapters from this report.

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