WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday voted to keep pressure on Myanmar to continue economic and political reforms by extending a U.S. ban on imports from the resource-rich Southeast Asian nation for three more years.
The bill updates legislation first passed in 2003 and which expires near the end of this month. It also preserves the White House's authority to waive or terminate the sanctions to reward Myanmar, also known as Burma, for positive steps.
"By reauthorizing the import sanctions for three years, we maintain pressure on the Burmese government to undertake reforms," Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus said.
Supporters hope the full Senate and House of Representatives will pass the bill before the month-long August recess. The measure was included in broader legislation to renew an expiring trade benefit for sub-Saharan African countries.
The United States imported $356.4 million of clothing and other goods from Burma in 2002, the last full year before the U.S. import ban was imposed. Imports fell to $275.7 million in 2003 and have been zero in most years since.
The Obama administration eased some sanctions last week to allow U.S. companies to invest in Myanmar and provide services in the country.
Two days later, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged Myanmar's President Thein Sein at a Southeast Asian nations meeting in Cambodia to continue the country's emergence from nearly a half-century of reclusive military rule.
The United States banned imports from Myanmar in 2003 and expanded the legislation in 2008 to include jewelry from other countries made with jade or rubies from Myanmar.
The law required lawmakers to vote annually to renew the sanctions, subject to a maximum of nine times. The new bill reauthorizes annual renewals through July 2015.
(Reporting By Doug Palmer; Editing by Vicki Allen)