Washington — President Obama has nominated the first U.S. ambassador to Burma in 22 years and announced an easing of financial sanctions on the country in response to its “significant progress along the path to democracy.”
“Today marks the beginning of a new chapter in the relationship between the United States and Burma,” Obama said in a May 17 statement. He said the United States is living up to its pledge to “respond to positive developments in Burma and to clearly demonstrate America’s commitment to the future of an extraordinary country, a courageous people and universal values.”
The president announced the ambassadorial nomination of Derek Mitchell, “whose work has been instrumental in bringing about this new phase” in the U.S.-Burma relationship, along with an easing of bans on financial services exports and new investments in Burma. Obama also said the United States is seeking to enhance people-to-people ties with Burma through student, professional and cultural exchanges.
“Opening up greater economic engagement between our two countries is critical to supporting reformers in government and civil society, facilitating broad-based economic development, and bringing Burma out of isolation and into the international community,” he said.
But he said that while much progress has been made, there is much more to be done.
“The United States remains concerned about Burma’s closed political system, its treatment of minorities and detention of political prisoners, and its relationship with North Korea,” Obama said.
He said the United States will work with Burma to establish a framework for responsible investment from the United States that encourages transparency and oversight and helps to ensure that those who abuse human rights, engage in corruption, interfere with the peace process or obstruct the reform process do not benefit from increased engagement with the United States.
The president said the United States will also continue to press for human rights violators to be held accountable, and maintains the ability to reinstate selected sanctions if there is backsliding on reform efforts.
“Americans for decades have stood with the Burmese people in their struggle to realize the full promise of their extraordinary country,” Obama said. “In recent months, we have been inspired by the economic and political reforms that have taken place, Secretary Clinton’s historic trip to Naypyitaw and Rangoon, the parliamentary elections and the sight of Aung San Suu Kyi being sworn into office after years of struggle.”
Obama said the United States is “entering a new phase in our engagement on behalf of a more democratic and prosperous future for the Burmese people.”
His remarks came as Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton hosted Burmese Foreign Minister U Wunna Maung Lwin for talks at the State Department. Clinton expressed excitement for the minister's "historic" first visit to Washington and said their talks followed up on a range of bilateral issues initially discussed their December 2011 meeting in Naypyitaw.