Timeline: 2013 – 2014
Donor: Germany (GIZ)
Two projects on trade-related capacity building were implemented in Myanmar in the period October 2013 – April 2014 and in autumn 2015.
As one of the only two least-developed countries which founded the GATT in 1948, the Republic of the Union of Myanmar has been involved in the multilateral trading system for over 60 years. Nonetheless, due to relative international isolation which affected the trade dynamics in Myanmar over the last 20 years, the Government of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar was pushed to adopt a rather inward-looking and isolationist trade policy these last years. The country’s experience in the work of WTO-related matters and open market policies has therefore been limited. As sanctions have been lifted, the country is now in a position to elaborate a trade policy regime allowing it to fully benefit from its reintegration into the international trade community. In these efforts, Myanmar could take advantage of the three trade-related processes taking place within a common timeframe, namely the WTO Trade Policy Review (TPR), the Enhanced Integrated Framework’s (EIF) Diagnostic Trade Integration Study (DTIS) and the ITC National Export Strategy (NES). The resulting findings and recommendations are a significant input in the process of elaborating a coherent and development oriented trade policy.
The Republic of the Union of Myanmar wanted to use the momentum to review its trade as the sanctions against the country have been lifted and it could develop with an open and market-oriented trade regime. This could unleash the country’s great potential for economic development by taking full advantage of its integration into the world economy. This process should enable Myanmar to define ways to best benefit from its WTO membership, both in the process of WTO Doha negotiations and through active participation in the regular work of WTO bodies.
In defining the adequate trade policy, recommendations arising from the TPR and DTIS need to be implemented through appropriate government capacities. The comprehensive trade reforms require full understanding not only of WTO rules and requirements but also of current multilateral negotiating processes taking place within the WTO. However, the trade-related institutional capacities in Myanmar are weak, with notable lack of experience and knowledge of the Government officials.
In such context, the overall objective of the project was to build up the capacity of Government officials and stakeholders on WTO issues by providing in-depth trainings in the country. The assistance provided also allowed gaining insight into the capacities of the Ministry of Commerce and assess further demand for possible follow-up advisory projects.
Activities of Myanmar project I
As a prerequisite for successful reforms, it is necessary to build strong capacities and institutional set-up. This is especially relevant as trade policies falling within the general competence of the Ministry of Commerce involve a great number of line ministries (around 18) and other stakeholders.
The following activities were undertaken in 2013/2014:
- Capacity-building and awareness-raising training on WTO and trade policy issues in Yangon and Naypyidaw for both Government officials and the private sector;
- Support for the participation of two Governments officials at the TPR meeting in Geneva;
- Assessment of further capacity development needs of Myanmar partners.
“This process should enable Myanmar to define ways to best benefit from its WTO membership, both in the process of WTO Doha negotiations and through active participation in the regular work of WTO bodies.”
Activities of Myanmar project II
The Ministry of Commerce of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar is responsible for the formulation and implementation of a host of trade-related policies and action plans. However, the MoC has only since 2011 started to play again a role in the international trade-related forums. Until 2012, the main thrust of trade policy was through the control of access to foreign currencies, as well as the licensing of transactions for the import and export of goods. Other trade-related instruments available under international agreements in which Myanmar is a member, such as the WTO, remained largely unused and unexplored.
With the liberalisation of the foreign exchange regime and the intended phasing out of the large majority of the import and export licensing activities, the Government of Myanmar wished to find other effective ways to deal with imports and exports of goods and services in the framework of the wider national economic development. It was important to build up expertise on how to use, in the most effective way and for the benefit of the national productive sectors, the other trade policy instruments that are available.
MoC needed support to strengthen institutional set-up and capacities for trade policy formulation and implementation in order to uphold national interests in the ongoing international developments, such as the ASEAN Economic Community process, and the WTO negotiations in the Doha Round.
In that framework, IDEAS Centre was commissioned to:
- Assist in strengthening the capacity and hold consultations with the Trade Development Programme (TDP) and relevant officials of the Ministry of Commerce on trade policy formulation;
- Hold workshop for various Government officials on designing and implementing policies on trade in goods and trade in services, including the needed inter-sectoral coordination;
- Provide recommendations on various components of potential trade reforms, related to tariffication and trade in services.
A mission to Naypyidaw and Yangon was successfully carried out in November 2015. This allowed IDEAS Centre to work on a follow-up project related to shaping a trading strategy for Myanmar.