Now that Washington has lifted all remaining sanctions on Myanmar, about 100 Myanmar companies and individuals can start making business deals with U.S. corporations.

Many see the lifting as helping State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi mend ways with the country’s military. Suu Kyi last month approached U.S. President Barack Obama about removing the sanctions while she was in Washington.

The move is also expected to prompt not only U.S. but also other foreign businesses to enter the country.

Obama on Friday signed an executive order lifting all remaining sanctions that had been imposed in 1997.

As part of the sanctions, the U.S. Treasury created a list of junta officials and companies with ties to the former military government. U.S. citizens and companies were banned from dealing with anyone on the list.

These restrictions no longer hold.

The list contains about 20 people who at one time were top officers in the former military government, including former Senior Gen. Than Shwe, who held the top post in the junta and is believed to still exert strong influence over the nation’s military, and Myint Swe, the current vice president and formerly a high-ranking military officer.

The sanctions were introduced in response to a call by Suu Kyi, who had sought to weaken the military junta.

Many of the sanctions were lifted in 2011, following Myanmar’s shift to civilian rule, but the list remained in place until Friday.

Suu Kyi was still confronting the military when the current administration was inaugurated in late March and wanted the list to remain. She had hoped to use it as leverage to prevent a retreat from democracy.

Now that Washington has lifted all remaining sanctions on Myanmar, about 100 Myanmar companies and individuals can start making business deals with U.S. corporations.

Many see the lifting as helping State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi mend ways with the country’s military. Suu Kyi last month approached U.S. President Barack Obama about removing the sanctions while she was in Washington.

The move is also expected to prompt not only U.S. but also other foreign businesses to enter the country.

Obama on Friday signed an executive order lifting all remaining sanctions that had been imposed in 1997.

As part of the sanctions, the U.S. Treasury created a list of junta officials and companies with ties to the former military government. U.S. citizens and companies were banned from dealing with anyone on the list.

These restrictions no longer hold.

The list contains about 20 people who at one time were top officers in the former military government, including former Senior Gen. Than Shwe, who held the top post in the junta and is believed to still exert strong influence over the nation’s military, and Myint Swe, the current vice president and formerly a high-ranking military officer.

The sanctions were introduced in response to a call by Suu Kyi, who had sought to weaken the military junta.

Many of the sanctions were lifted in 2011, following Myanmar’s shift to civilian rule, but the list remained in place until Friday.

Suu Kyi was still confronting the military when the current administration was inaugurated in late March and wanted the list to remain. She had hoped to use it as leverage to prevent a retreat from democracy.

She subsequently assumed a more conciliatory stance and asked Obama to lift the remaining sanctions when she visited the U.S. in September.

The change of tack shows Suu Kyi has adopted an approach better suited to the current political climate. Myanmar’s constitution guarantees the military a place in national politics; it assigns 25% of the seats in parliament to military members, for instance.

Suu Kyi wants to revise the constitution, but she needs cooperation from the military to do so. She reasoned it would be easier to obtain this assistance by making a conciliatory gesture.

A Myanmar President Office spokesperson on Saturday told The Nikkei that Obama’s timing is optimal in regard to the country’s democratization process. The spokesperson said the public can now place more trust in the current government and the direction it is taking.

And if the military grows more cooperative, it would help solidify Suu Kyi’s power base.

Among the powerful tycoons and their companies now free from sanctions is Chairman Steven Law of Asia World, which builds ports, roads and other pieces of infrastructure. Another is Tay Za, who heads Htoo Trading, a major resource developer.

Both men had ties with the former military junta and supported it; each still exerts powerful influence on Myanmar industry. Yet foreign businesses, including those from the U.S. and Japan, had been unable to approach them because of the sanctions.

Now that some of the country’s most powerful tycoons and corporations have had the doors to global deal-making opened to them, Myanmar will no doubt accelerate its efforts to boost foreign investment and spur its economy.

The U.S. on Friday also lifted sanctions on imports of jade and rubies from Myanmar, one of the world’s top producers of the gems. The move could help Myanmar turn these precious stones into viable foreign currency earners.

Meanwhile, Japanese companies that already operate in Myanmar may face tougher competition: The Americans are coming.

Link: http://asia.nikkei.com/Business/Trends/Myanmar-tycoons-now-have-their-shot-at-global-deal-making