Trade between Australia and Myanmar is expected to expand significantly with the introduction of new economic reforms in that country.
Minister for Trade and Investment Andrew Robb said Myanmar has opened up opportunities to increase bilateral trade and investment between our two countries.
“Until now, this aspect of the relationship has been relatively modest, with total merchandise trade totalling A$137 million in 2013, he said.
“I am confident this will expand quickly.”
Mr Robb’s confidence follows recent meetings with industry and business leaders in Yangon to discuss expanding bilateral trade and investment between Australia and Myanmar.
Economic reforms – including the revised Foreign Investment Law, improved monetary policies and import tariff reductions – had already started rejuvenating Myanmar’s economy.
“Myanmar’s economic outlook is promising, with growth predicted to reach 8.5 percent in 2014, Mr Robb said. “The country’s natural resources, including oil, gas, minerals and hydropower, can further bolster this.
“These areas clearly align with Australia’s own strengths and expertise and it is these industries which, to a large extent, have driven our own national development. They are the things we do well.”
Future economic prosperity
Australian businesses are increasing their presence in Myanmar in energy and resources but also in the infrastructure, finance and banking sectors, which are all crucial to Myanmar’s future economic prosperity.
“Australian experience and technology in these fields is already contributing to sustainable economic development, said Mr Robb. “Australian engineering firms, for example, are involved in the design and construction of roads that will improve Myanmar’s transport and logistics networks.
“They are providing environmental and social impact assessments for mining and hydropower projects and advising on the restoration of heritage buildings as well as modern residential complexes in Yangon.
“Our mining, oil and gas companies are likewise also contributing expertise to sustainable, responsible and efficient resource development.”
Other sectors where Australian expertise aligns with Myanmar’s development needs include agribusiness and education.
“We are working closely with Myanmar to support reform in these areas,” Mr Robb said.
Australia is one of the largest donors to Myanmar’s education sector, providing A$105 million from 2012 to 2018 to help strengthen the school system and underpin further learning and skills development.
“It is obvious that agriculture plays a vital role in both our countries, said Mr Robb.
“In Myanmar it employs some 70 percent of the workforce. Australia has specialised expertise that Myanmar can draw on as it develops its agricultural sector, including in areas such as animal and plant genetics and animal husbandry.”
Australia’s pre-eminent agricultural research institute, the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), is already working in Myanmar to help farmers improve the quantity and quality of food production.
Australia is also supporting the provision of healthcare services, particularly to women and children.
“The risk of disease is still high in Myanmar and this can constrain economic growth, Mr Robb said.
“Australian universities, hospitals and non-government groups are already working with their counterparts in Myanmar’s health sector. Increased collaboration between our respective institutions and researchers in the field of tropical health would be a worthwhile endeavour.
Australia’s aid to Myanmar is expected to reach A$90 million this financial year.
Mr Robb said Australia had supported Myanmar’s reforms to date.
“I look forward to a continued partnership as we seek new opportunities for collaboration and expanded trade and investment ties.
“This will lead to greater prosperity for all.”