U.S. President Barack Obama says his government is set to lift U.S. economic sanctions on Myanmar (Burma), confirming an earlier announcement by a U.S. official and congressional aides on the matter.
Obama is meeting Wednesday with the country’s de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi.
Congressional aides earlier said that Suu Kyi had requested the removal of the national emergency order on Myanmar — the executive order authorizing sanctions that have been renewed annually by U.S. presidents for two decades.
An official said that by terminating the emergency, 111 Myanmar individuals and companies will be dropped from a Treasury blacklist and restrictions will be lifted on new investment with the military and on the imports of rubies and jade.
The official and aides spoke on condition of anonymity as they are not authorized to discuss the matter ahead of Obama’s formal announcement.
Obama says lifting economic sanctions against Myanmar will help the country reap the benefits of its transition to democracy and unleash its “enormous potential.”
Obama spoke after an Oval Office meeting Wednesday with Suu Kyi.
“The United States is now prepared to lift sanctions that we have imposed on Burma for quite some time,” Obama was quoted by the Associated Press as saying.
Seated alongside Suu Kyi in the Oval Office during the meeting, Obama said it was “the right thing to do” to ensure Myanmar benefits from its transition.
Asked by a reporter when sanctions would be lifted, Obama said “soon.”
The announcement comes as Suu Kyi is making her first visit to Washington since winning her leadership post in November election. The visit signals her transformation from long-imprisoned democracy advocate to national leader focused on economic growth.
Suu Kyi told reporters later that she wants to develop her country’s internal resources, and thanked Obama for his support during the transition.
Addressing problems in western Burma’s Rakhine state, where more than 100,000 Rohingyas remain stuck in camps, separated from Buddhists who are the majority in Myanmar, Suu Kyi said everyone entitled to citizenship in Myanmar should get it.
“We are sincere in trying to bring together the different communities,” Suu Kyi said.
According to the U.S State Department, Obama’s announcement reflects Burma’s progress towards democratic consolidation and the department’s continued commitment to help the new government deliver on expectations for democracy and economic growth.
The economic and financial sanctions imposed on Burma under the national emergency, it said, were intended to encourage democratic transition.
The department said Burma has achieved “tremendous transformation” through the democratic election of a civilian-led government and its commitment to achieving peace, national reconciliation, and inclusive economic growth.
“The forthcoming termination of the national emergency does not end our commitment to support ongoing democratic consolidation in Burma.” it said.
“The United States will use all of our available engagement tools to deepen democratic gains, promote good governance and transparency, and strengthen democratic institutions.”
Additional reporting from the Associated Press