Washington has said it will start to ease a long-standing ban on imports to the US from Myanmar as the country makes its way back to the international fold.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the decision over the import ban came in light of reforms by Myanmar President Thein Sein's government.
"In recognition of the continued progress toward reform and in response to requests from both the government and the opposition, the United States is taking the next step in normalizing our commercial relationship," Clinton told Thein Sein in a meeting in New York on Wednesday.
"We will begin the process of easing restrictions on imports of Burmese goods into the United States. We hope this will provide more opportunities for your people to sell their goods into our market," Clinton said.
No blanket lifting of the ban is expected initially, with US officials set to examine each sector of trade to see how best to relax the sanctions.
The ban represents a significant boost to the government in Nyapidaw, which has been gradually allowing more freedom to political opponents.
"We have been pleased to respond with specific steps which recognize the government's efforts and encourage further reform," Clinton added. The issue of political prisoners is believed to be one upon which the US is pushing for further reform.
Plans for Myanmar to be outlined
Thein Sein’s meeting with Clinton took place ahead of his address to the UN General Assembly on Thursday. At the UN general meeting, Thein Sein is expected to outline plans for the future for the country.
"The people of Myanmar are very pleased with the easing of economic sanctions by the United States. We are very grateful for the actions of the United States," he told Clinton, as the pair met for the third time.
Washington last week removed individual sanctions against Thein Sein, a 67-year-old former general who has been a catalyst for reform as the leader of a civilian but pro-miltary regime in power since March last year.
Thein Sein is on his first visit to the US since taking power last year, a trip that coincides with a tour of the country by Myanmar pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi.
rc / lw (AFP, AP, Reuters)