As the result of a fact finding mission and series of talks between the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the Myanmar government, the WTO publicly presented their assessment of the trade policy issues facing Myanmar.
According to Usman Ali Khilji, trade policy analyst for the WTO, Myanmar faces a plethora of structural problems. Data from different government agencies is often contradictory, as is that from outside organisations.
The country’s poor infrastructure often restricts trade with the outside world, there is a lack of government transparency, and a lack of laws and regulations posted on the internet, which Khilji said deters foreign investors.
He continued that foreign businesses take a long time to set up and get approval, inhibited by archaic legal restrictions and a lack of access to credit, and that customs clearance can take three days or longer to complete.
Trade tariffs are complex and unpredictable, ranging from 0.1 percent to 40 percent, with the tariff for most products being 1 percent. This complicates imports and exports, and does little to build government revenue.
The final problem Khilji noted was that almost all state-run economic enterprises were operating at a loss, accounting for 75 percent of the government’s budget, and amounting to 5 percent of Myanmar’s GDP.
The purpose of the trade policy review is as a “transparency exercise,” to build greater understanding between the WTO members about the issues of a particular country. The review isn’t legally binding and doesn’t seek to impose new rules.
This is appropriate, as much of the information was based on a 2013 fact finding survey, followed by the first trade policy review in March, to which this is a follow-up.