Japan seeks to get in on act investing in Myanmar

Reuters News
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Posted: May 21, 2012 6:00 AM
Japan seeks to get in on act investing in Myanmar

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan will start negotiations on an investment treaty with Myanmar on Wednesday, the trade ministry said, as corporations around the world scramble to do business in one of the last frontier markets in response to encouraging political reforms.

The earliest possibility for an agreement would be a November summit of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and Japan in Cambodia, although the trade ministry said there was no pre-set schedule.

"Since many Japanese private companies are trying to do business with Myanmar, we want to reach the agreement as soon as possible," a ministry official said.

Japan, which occupied Myanmar, then known as Burma, from 1942-45, will seek most-favored-nation status, meaning Myanmar will have to grant Japan at least as favorable conditions it grants other nations, the official said.

The United Stated last week suspended sanctions barring U.S. investment in Myanmar in response to political reforms in the nation.

Myanmar's reformist, quasi-civilian government took office a year ago and has started overhauling its economy, easing media censorship, legalizing trade unions and protests, freeing political prisoners and agreeing to ceasefires with ethnic minority rebels. Nobel Peace Prize laureate and pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi has a seat in parliament.

Analysts and experts have said there will be opportunities for foreign companies across the industrial landscape - from energy, mining and construction to agriculture, finance and tourism.

Japan's move follows an announcement in April to write off $3.7 billion debt owed by Myanmar and restart development loans.

(Reporting by Kaori Kaneko; Editing by Nick Macfie)