World Trade Organization
WTO Trade Policy Review of Myanmar 2021 - Australia Statement
15 and 17 February 2021
Australia welcomes this opportunity to comment on Myanmar's WTO Trade Policy Review. Myanmar is, of course, an original Member of the WTO and it joined in 1995.
Australia wishes to take this opportunity to register our serious concerns about the military coup in Myanmar. We strongly urge the military to engage in dialogue to support a return to civilian rule, to refrain from violence, and to reconvene the National Assembly the Myanmar people so clearly want.
Australia is also deeply concerned about the detention of democratically elected leaders, as well as the detention of an Australian citizen, respected economist Professor Sean Turnell. We call for his immediate release so he can return home to his family and for the release of all those who have been detained.
Current instability will have a significant impact on international confidence, and trade and investment with Myanmar. It is for these reasons we raise these issues.
Myanmar is an LDC and one of the poorest countries in South East Asia. It can ill-afford to take backward steps. Prior to the coup, reforms had begun to open and rejuvenate Myanmar's economy. Rising exports, consumption, and investment had fuelled growth over recent years, with goods and services trade representing around 48% of Myanmar's GDP. Customs duties have been reduced, and Myanmar's average applied tariff is now 4.2%.
We were concerned by Myanmar's decision to impose export restrictions on rice in response to COVID-19, but recognize that this measure was temporary, targeted and transparent. Economic growth, however, and a parallel decline in poverty rates will slow in light of the impact of COVID-19 and recent political developments.
Foreign investment supports employment and economic growth which directly helps the long-suffering people of Myanmar. A stable Myanmar and swift return to democracy will be essential to retain existing foreign investment, attract new foreign investment and underpin future economic growth.
We continue to engage with Myanmar across the broad range of WTO negotiations as MC12 approaches.