Senator Jim Webb, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asian and Pacific Affairs, today issued the following statement regarding the suspension of certain U.S. economic sanctions on Burma:
"I am pleased that the administration has followed through on its commitment to expand economic engagement with Burma, also known as Myanmar. We are facing a critical window of time to push for continued reforms and political reconciliation within that country. The steps taken today will incentivize positive conduct, while ensuring that so called "bad actors' from the previous military junta or those who resist reforms will not benefit from economic relations with the United States. It is important to note that the European Union suspended all sanctions on Burma in April, except for the arms embargo, and that all major U.S. partners including Australia, Japan and Canada have suspended sanctions and are offering assistance for economic development in the country. It is essential that the United States continue to use executive authorities to ease all economic sanctions on Burma, such as suspending the ban on imports."
NOTE: The general licenses issued by the U.S. Department of the Treasury today permit the first new U.S. investment in Burma in nearly 15 years and broadly authorize the exportation of financial services to Burma in order to sustain that country's recent political reforms. These licenses were accompanied by an Executive Order that imposes targeted sanctions on individuals who threaten the peace, security, or stability of Burma, including those who may undermine political reforms or reconciliation or who may commit human rights abuses.
Background on Senator Webb's Involvement in Burma
In 2009, Senator Webb was the first American leader to visit Burma in more than 10 years, and remains the only American official ever to meet with General Than Shwe, the former leader of the country's former military regime. During that visit, Senator Webb also met with Thein Sein, who now serves as President, and Aung San Suu Kyi, who at that time remained under house arrest. Following that trip, Senator Webb chaired a Foreign Relations Committee oversight hearing on US - Burma relations at which he called for increased confidence-building gestures in order to pursue better relations between the two governments. He continued to meet frequently on this topic with political leaders from that country, as well as other foreign policy leaders from the international community, and pro-democracy organizations in the expatriate community.
Senator Webb's third visit to Burma occurred at a pivotal moment following that country's historic parliamentary by-elections April 1, 2012. During this important return visit, Senator Webb again met with President Thein Sein, the leaders of both Houses of Parliament, government ministers, business leaders, political party representatives, journalists, and the owners of major news media. He also traveled to the Bago Region Government Office to observe and discuss peace negotiations with representatives from Burma's central government and the Karen National Union. He then chaired a subcommittee hearing on April 26 with senior officials from the Departments of Treasury and State and USAID, as well as outside experts, to provide a clearer understanding of the range of sanctions in place and the obstacles to removing them.
In a joint letter on May 4, 2012, to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Senator Webb, joined by subcommittee ranking member James Inhofe, first called for the administration to lift all sanctions immediately. The Senators warned against lifting sanctions sector by sector, noting that retaining sanctions on individual industries such as petroleum would be "a strategic mistake." On June 27 while presiding over a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the nomination of Ambassador Derek Mitchell to be Ambassador to Burma, Senator Webb reiterated this position and called for the Administration to set consistent trade policies in the region.