Weekly Business Roundup (July 24, 2009) by IRRAWADDY

US Lawmakers Renew Import Ban on Burma for one More Year

A ban on imports from Burma has been renewed for one year by the US House of Representatives.

The ban affects a range of products but especially Burmese gemstones via third countries, said the Voice of America radio station.

The house action seeks to renew the import bans contained in the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act, which was due to expire on July 26.

It comes as US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton suggested that the United States would consider resuming investment and other economic links if the Burmese regime freed Aung San Suu Kyi.

The sponsor of the renewed import ban, New York Democrat Joseph Crowley, said it was justified because the “junta has also rejected recent diplomatic outreach” on the Suu Kyi issue.

Republican Kevin Brady of Texas was quoted by VOA as saying that although he regarded sanctions with “great skepticism,” they are “crafted to maximize their ability to effect change.”

The renewal was backed by the American Apparel & Footwear Association.

Under the act, however, President Barack Obama has the power to lift the trade sanctions if he considers that steps have been taken by the Burmese junta to improve human rights.

Aid for Burmese Nuclear Reactor Complies with Rules, says Moscow

Russia’s state-controlled Novosti news agency has declared that Moscow’s cooperation with Burma on commercial nuclear development does not contravene international treaties on preventing the spread of nuclear weapons.

The agency this week quoted a Russian foreign ministry spokesman, Andrei Nesterenko, on the issue at the same time the US expressed concerns about a possible liaison between the Burmese and North Korean regimes.

Rosatom, Russia’s state-owned nuclear energy corporation, signed an agreement in 2007 to help construct a nuclear research center in Burma, and Moscow will stand by this agreement, Nesterenko said.

The deal, which is supposed to cost tens of millions of dollars, envisages developing a reactor with an energy capacity of 10 megawatts.

However, Novosti also noted that there had been virtually no practical development of the agreement since it was signed. Burma Says it Wants More Trade with India and Bangladesh

Burma, Bangladesh and India have met to discuss trade expansion between the three countries.

Kyaw Nyunt Lwin, the first secretary of the Burmese mission in New Delhi, represented Burma at the talks this week in the northeastern Indian state of Mizoram, according to the Indian newspaper The Telegraph.

The Burmese envoy called for increased trade with India to include more Burmese imports of machinery, cement, fertilizer and consumer goods. In return, he said, Burma wanted to export more teak, fish and pulses to India.

Little was reported on the details of any improvement in Burma-Bangladesh trade.

India is one of Burma’s biggest customers for pulse crops.

New Delhi state funding is financing a US $120 million transport and port improvement inside Burma, connecting Mizoram with the Burmese port of Sittwe via the River Kaladan.

India is Burma’s fourth biggest trading partner, but still lags far behind Thailand and China. However, it is catching up with Singapore in third place.

Nepal Seeks to Improve Ties with Burma

Nepal is planning to reestablish direct air links with Burma after a 20-year break.

The plan comes as a result of the two countries’ membership in BIMSTEC—the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation.

Nepal and Burma are among seven member countries of the organization, which also includes India and Thailand.

Landlocked Nepal severed previous air links with Burma in 1988 and there have been virtually no economic ties between the two countries since.

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