US embraces Myanmar to absorb Chinese influence

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Obama Thein Sein
Obama and Myanmar’s president Thein Sein

China is quickly losing its footing in Myanmar. No longer the subject of international castigation, the Southeast Asian nation, once firmly held in the orbit of China’s economic influence, has instead begun to cozy up with its former punisher.

Since widely lifting economic sanctions on Myanmar in mid-2012, the US has unleashed a torrent of private investment into the former military dictatorship, while China struggles to keep projects moving amid weakened relations. The shift has been as rapid as it is palpable.

“One year ago, the US-ASEAN Business Council led the first US business mission to Myanmar, two days after the suspension of sanctions. At that time, no US company had made a new investment or set up a new office,” said Alexander Feldman, President of the US-ASEAN Business Council, during a mission to Yangon on July 10.

“As we conclude our second mission, many of our members, including The Coca-Cola Company, GE, GM, Ford, Deloitte, ACE, KPMG, Cisco, and others have made investments or opened distributorships and representative offices,” Feldman observed.

Indeed, it was only recently announced that GM would become the second US car brand to open up a showroom in Myanmar, planned for the fourth quarter of 2013 in Yangon.

Meanwhile, investment from China into Myanmar has registered a sharp drop, with the last of its large-scale projects wrapping up: the construction of two pipelines that will feed natural gas to China from the Bay of Bengal, the source of large, potentially transformational reservoirs.

China was Myanmar’s closest economic and political ally for decades, a relationship bred out of isolation and necessary. But when the fetters of economic sanctions begin to be relieved by the West in 2011, popular sentiment shifted away from China, a strong supporter of the former military junta.

China may have already become irreversibly sidelined, and the US delegation offers good proof of this.

During the visit made by the US business leaders, headed by Mariano Vela, President of Unocal Myanmar Offshore, Ltd for Chevron and Chair of the Council’s Myanmar Committee, meetings were held with Myanmar President U Thein Sein, Speaker of the Lower House of Parliament Thura U Shwe Mann, and Chair of the National League for Democracy and Member of Parliament Aung San Suu Kyi.

In contrast to last year’s mission, which revolved around an agenda to pressure economic and political reforms, the US delegation, while still encourage the government to continue on its current path, has brought up “opportunities to support Myanmar’s 2014 ASEAN Chairmanship.”

This level of involvement is the counterweight that China has long feared.

 

 

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Reading Time: 2 minutes

Obama and Myanmar’s president Thein Sein

China is quickly losing its footing in Myanmar. No longer the subject of international castigation, the Southeast Asian nation, once firmly held in the orbit of China’s economic influence, has instead begun to cozy up with its former punisher.

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Obama Thein Sein
Obama and Myanmar’s president Thein Sein

China is quickly losing its footing in Myanmar. No longer the subject of international castigation, the Southeast Asian nation, once firmly held in the orbit of China’s economic influence, has instead begun to cozy up with its former punisher.

Since widely lifting economic sanctions on Myanmar in mid-2012, the US has unleashed a torrent of private investment into the former military dictatorship, while China struggles to keep projects moving amid weakened relations. The shift has been as rapid as it is palpable.

“One year ago, the US-ASEAN Business Council led the first US business mission to Myanmar, two days after the suspension of sanctions. At that time, no US company had made a new investment or set up a new office,” said Alexander Feldman, President of the US-ASEAN Business Council, during a mission to Yangon on July 10.

“As we conclude our second mission, many of our members, including The Coca-Cola Company, GE, GM, Ford, Deloitte, ACE, KPMG, Cisco, and others have made investments or opened distributorships and representative offices,” Feldman observed.

Indeed, it was only recently announced that GM would become the second US car brand to open up a showroom in Myanmar, planned for the fourth quarter of 2013 in Yangon.

Meanwhile, investment from China into Myanmar has registered a sharp drop, with the last of its large-scale projects wrapping up: the construction of two pipelines that will feed natural gas to China from the Bay of Bengal, the source of large, potentially transformational reservoirs.

China was Myanmar’s closest economic and political ally for decades, a relationship bred out of isolation and necessary. But when the fetters of economic sanctions begin to be relieved by the West in 2011, popular sentiment shifted away from China, a strong supporter of the former military junta.

China may have already become irreversibly sidelined, and the US delegation offers good proof of this.

During the visit made by the US business leaders, headed by Mariano Vela, President of Unocal Myanmar Offshore, Ltd for Chevron and Chair of the Council’s Myanmar Committee, meetings were held with Myanmar President U Thein Sein, Speaker of the Lower House of Parliament Thura U Shwe Mann, and Chair of the National League for Democracy and Member of Parliament Aung San Suu Kyi.

In contrast to last year’s mission, which revolved around an agenda to pressure economic and political reforms, the US delegation, while still encourage the government to continue on its current path, has brought up “opportunities to support Myanmar’s 2014 ASEAN Chairmanship.”

This level of involvement is the counterweight that China has long feared.

 

 

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