Statement by Ms. Arancha González, ITC Executive Director at the launching ceremony of the Myanmar National Export Strategy

25 March 2015
ITC News

Speech delivered by Ms. Arancha González, ITC Executive Director at the launching ceremony of the Myanmar National Export Strategy

Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar - 25 March 2015

Mr. Vice-President,
Mr. Minister,
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure and honour for me to be here today to celebrate the launch of Myanmar’s first National Export Strategy. When I think of Myanmar, the images that spring to mind are those of golden pagodas and pristine coastlines. Yours is a proud nation with a rich culture and history. At times a complicated history. But the Myanmar of today is on the move.

Historic political changes have been accompanied by economic reforms that have enabled Myanmar to consolidate the high growth rates of the past decade. With a GDP growth close to 8% in 2014, the economy could triple its current per capita GDP by 2030. The implication of this for the livelihoods of Myanmar citizens is transformational.

Myanmar is emerging as an important new trade partner and investment destination in South East Asia. Its significant productive potential and ongoing market-led economic reforms are gradually making Myanmar a country more open for business. The country is strategically located near sizeable Asian markets, and is party to agreements on trade, services and investment. These enabling factors have the potential to contribute to market diversification and greater value addition for Myanmar’s exports.

The topography of the Myanmar economy is also transforming. While agricultural exports remain important, exports of manufactures have grown by almost 60 % since 2005 while services exports have expanded by roughly 50 % during the same period. This encouraging trade context, combined with increasing foreign direct investment and a young demographic bodes well for an increased presence of Myanmar’s goods and services in the regional and international market place. Equally, exporting a broader basket of value-added goods and services to a larger number of countries will make Myanmar’s economy more resilient in the face of changes in commodity prices and external demand, and help generate sustainable jobs for its young and growing population.

To catch up with its ASEAN neighbours and leapfrog into the digital economy, Myanmar has already started improving its business climate, opening trade in services, modernizing its financial and banking system and restructuring the country’s infrastructure. It is now essential to maintain course and accelerate pace.

More importantly, investing in its human capital remains key to offer companies and investors the skilled and educated workers required to enable greater value addition in Myanmar. And for the workers.....While diversifying its economy and export basket, Myanmar aims to support the transformation of its agricultural sector which remains an important source of export revenues and employment for Myanmar people, especially in rural areas.

A traditional Myanmar proverb says “Travel not afar without Companion”. The National Export Strategy we are launching today can be an extraordinary companion for Myanmar to become a regional trade champion. The Strategy was designed through a country-led process, involving civil society, the private and public sector; under the leadership of the Ministry of Commerce. This is why it is a Strategy for the people of Myanmar.

It sets out specific and prioritised actions to solve binding constraints, lift barriers to trade and turn market opportunities into real-life success stories. Strengthening the trade and investment support institutions in the country will provide the backbone infrastructure and services for the country’s small and medium enterprises. And will also help investment become a powerful tool to transfer technology and to connect to supply chains, both of which Myanmar is well positioned to take advantage.

The Myanmar National Export Strategy identifies sectors with great export potential. These include beans, pulses and oilseeds; fisheries; forestry products; textiles and garments; rice; rubber as well as tourism which are key sectors to drive economic development and employment generation. In order to build an enabling business environment for all enterprises, it also focuses on enhancing the following priority cross-sectors: trade financing, trade information and trade promotion, trade facilitation and logistics and quality management.

Innovative solutions, such as recycling wood waste and using solar technology to meet energy needs, building linkages between value chains, community-based management of natural resources and better exploiting investment opportunities, are some actions that have also been identified in the National Export Strategy.

This is a five-year roadmap to help Myanmar meet its priorities and ambitions to use trade as a driver of growth and sustainable development.

But a plan is only as valuable as it is implemented. I am glad to see that Myanmar has already started putting it into action. Attention will now have to be paid to ensuring coordination in action and coherence in the sense of direction. The Strategy implementation and governance structures, established by the Ministry of Commerce, in collaboration with other key public and private partners, will play a crucial role in federating national efforts towards realising Myanmar’s trade potential.

I thank the Vice President and the Minister of Commerce and their staff for the commitment. I would like to thank Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) for its financial support for this initiative, as well as the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ) for its implementation support. We welcome the active participation of many of Myanmar’s international partners in this endeavour. The Strategy offers you, us, all a coherent set of areas around which to programme trade related support and Aid for Trade. So far the response has been very positive and a number of projects emanating from the Strategy or aligned to the Strategy's recommendations have already been kick-started.

ITC is ready to play its part in making the Strategy come true. ITC has already launched a sustainable tourism project in Kayah state with the financial support of the Netherlands. This initiative, which evolved from the National Export Strategy, aims to promote rural development through increased tourism revenues for local communities. It is a good example of how to leverage services – tourism services – to generate sustainable incomes for rural communities.

ITC will also support the competitiveness of the oilseeds value chain by improving food safety and compliance with food quality standards, which are prerequisites to entering foreign markets. This project will be funded by the Standards and Trade Development Facility of the World Trade Organization (WTO). I am very pleased to mark the start of this project today with the signature of a joint letter of intent with His Excellency Minister for Commerce, regarding our cooperation under this project.

ITC will continue to provide advisory support to the Ministry of Commerce in operationalizing the Strategy governance structures and managing effectively the implementation. And we will do all of this working in close coordination with other development partners to better leverage our individual efforts.

Let me reiterate ITC’s commitment to pursue its collaboration with Myanmar on its road to sustainable trade-led growth and prosperity. One that translates into positive impacts for each and every citizen of Myanmar. I am delighted to be in Myanmar and for ITC to be here not just talking about supporting Myanmar, but actually doing it.

Thank you.