IN A BID to boost trade with foreign countries, Myanmar will appoint new commercial attaches in more countries in the coming months, said a government official.
Khin Maung Lwin, assistant secretary and spokesperson of the Ministry of Commerce, said the ministry is currently training some officials to be sent to foreign countries which have strong potential for trade with Myanmar.
“We hope to replace the existing commercial attaches with new ones by December this year, and have planned to appoint commercial attaches for four new destinations including Africa,” he said.
The official lauded the existing commercial attaches’ performance but said they must be replaced as their term lasts only three years, the same tenure as that of other attaches working for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Currently, Myanmar has appointed commercial attaches in nine countries including the United States, Belgium, Japan, China, Singapore, India, Hong Kong and Thailand.
In China, Myanmar currently has trade representatives in Beijing and Nanning and is considering appointing a commercial attache in Kunming. In fiscal year 2017-18 which ended in March 31, Myanmar’s total trade volume reached over US$33.5 billion (Bt1.1 trillion), more than one-third of which ($11.7 billion) accounted for its trade with China.
“Obviously, the purpose of sending them abroad is to boost bilateral trade with the countries where they are based. To choose a new destination, we mainly look at the bilateral trade volume, potential, trading opportunities and outlook for the future. We are thinking of sending commercial attach้es to more countries in the near future so that we can expand our trading network which will result in tangible benefits for both exporters and importers,” he said.
He said the commercial attaches would play a vital role in promoting trade with foreign countries where Myanmar has an embassy. They will get foreign traders connected with Myanmar businesses to be involved in commercial activities and trading, and will also serve as a focal contact point for trade fairs in those countries. On Monday, the ministry started a course on capacity building for its officials in capital Nay Pyi Taw, aimed at training potential staff to serve as trade representatives in other countries. A total of 28 personnel from the ministry are currently attending the course.
The ministry is planning to send trade representatives to Eastern Europe, Latin America, Africa, and the Middle East in the near future. It will also establish an international trade centre in Yangon to promote products made in Myanmar as well as set up EU and South Korea trade desks. Additionally, a Central Trade Promotion Department and consumer information and complaint centres have been established in the capitals of Myanmar’s states and regions, he said.
In fiscal year 2015-16, the national trade deficit was $5.44 billion, but in FY2017-18, it was reduced to $3.84 billion, driven by the rise in exports of textiles, natural gases, rice and maize. Last year, Myanmar’s imports generated $14.83 billion, a rise of $3.80 billion from FY2015-16, according to the Commerce Ministry.
In a bid to triple exports by FY2020-21, the ministry has shifted its focus from trade control to facilitation. As of May 2018, the ministry has removed licence requirements for 3,345 export items and 4,818 import items to promote trade.
It has allowed Myanmar businesses to enter joint ventures with foreign companies for agricultural machinery, and approved domestic trade for fertiliser, crop seeds, pesticides, medical apparatus, as well as construction equipment. It has also waived restrictions on the exports of cattle, trade of gold, gold artefacts and jewellery.