Obama vows to lift Myanmar sanctions as Suu Kyi visits
U.S. President Barack Obama talks to the media as he meets with Myanmar's State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi at the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S. September 14, 2016. REUTERS photoU.S. President Barack Obama moved to restore trade benefits to Myanmar, saying broader sanctions would soon be scrapped as he hosted the country’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi at the White House on Sept. 14.
Welcoming her for the first time since her historic election victory last year, Obama announced a series of steps to coax the rapidly transforming southeast Asian country - also known as Burma - from decades of economic isolation.
“The United States is now prepared to lift sanctions that we have imposed on Burma for quite some time,” AFP quoted Obama as saying, adding that the move would come “soon.”
“It is the right thing to do to ensure that the people of Burma see rewards for a new way of doing business.”
In a letter to Congress, Obama also announced plans to reinstate preferential tariffs for Myanmar that were suspended more than two decades ago amid rights abuses by the ruling junta.
The White House is keen to help the country’s economy and Suu Kyi’s administration - which is managing a difficult transition from military-run pariah to full-fledged democracy.
Although its constitution technically bars the 71-year-old Nobel Peace Prize laureate from heading Myanmar’s government, she received a leader’s welcome in Washington.
After talks with Obama, Suu Kyi took part in a coveted Oval Office grip-and-grin photo shoot.
Obama turned to the once-imprisoned former opposition leader, offering his “congratulations on the progress that has been made.”
“It’s a good news story in an era when so often we see countries going the opposite direction,” he said, acknowledging that much work remains to be done.
Suu Kyi is officially foreign minister and self-appointed state counsellor - a role akin to prime minister.
After spending much of the last few decades under arrest, she is now de facto leader of a skeletal government, an economy hollowed out by decades of dictatorship and a country riven with ethnic and religious violence.