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  European Union preempts the United States by ending ban on trade with Burma


May 5, 2012


The European Union has recognized what it refers to "historic changes" in Myanmar (Burma) by suspending for at least one year a wide range of trade, economic and individual sanctions, including the ban on the gemstone trade. The only sanctions to remain in place are those associated with arms sales.

Foreign ministers from the 27-nation organization agreed in Luxembourg in late April to the one-year suspension of measures that target about 500 individuals and more than 800 companies. The move follows the election on April 1 of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi to the parliament in Rangoon.

But the European foreign ministers stressed that the situation could change, as they will monitor the human rights in Myanmar very closely and keep the measures under constant review. This approach was backed up by British Prime Minister David Cameron, who released a statement noting "[Myanmar] President Thein Sein has taken important steps towards reform in Burma, and it is right for the world to respond to them. But those changes are not yet irreversible, which is why it is right to suspend rather than lift sanctions for good."

The European Union has thus far proven more responsive that the United States to the changing situation in Myanmar. In October 2007 it led the U.S. government in imposing a ban of gemstones from the Southeast Nation, ahead of the U.S. Congress which passed its sanctions bill, the JADE (Junta's Anti-Democratic Efforts) Act in 2008.

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