President Obama issued an executive order Friday lifting long-standing U.S. trade sanctions against Burma, saying in a formal notification that the regime’s pattern of using repressive tactics “has been significantly altered by Burma’s substantial advances to promote democracy” over the past year.
The move to give Burma the kind of preferential tariffs that other poorer nations enjoy, which Obama first announced last month, is controversial because human rights groups continue to warn that the country’s transition from authoritarian rule is not complete. While the opposition party led by State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi won in national elections last year, the military retains 25 percent of the seats in parliament and controls several key ministries under a constitution that bars Suu Kyi from becoming president.
Activists have also protested the Burmese government’s treatment of its Rohingya. Members of the Muslim minority group are not recognized as Burmese citizens in their own ancestral land Arakan and have fled in large numbers to neighbouring countries elsewhere in Southeast Asia.
Still, in the order, Obama cited the 2015 election results and other developments, including ”the release of many political prisoners; and greater enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms,” to justify the change in Burma’s trade status.
Engagement with Burma, also known as Myanmar, has been one of the hallmarks of the administration’s foreign policy, an approach that Obama and his aides say has borne fruit over years of negotiation. Suu Kyi, who visited with Obama in the Oval Office last month, now serves as the nation’s de facto leader even though she cannot serve as president.
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Source: Washington Post