Speech by the Ambassador
of the European Union,
H.E. Mr Kristian Schmidt
"Myanmar-EU Economic Forum"
Wed 05 June 2019
Kempinski Hotel, Naypyitaw
Your Excellency, Vice President U Myint Swe,
Distinguished guests, Business leaders, Ladies and gentlemen,
On behalf of the European Union, I’m glad to welcome you to this year's “Myanmar- EU Economic Forum". Mr Vice-President, it is a great honour to have you here with us again this year.
Let me also thank the European Chamber of Commerce and its members for hosting this event. The Myanmar-EU Economic Forum is a great opportunity for Myanmar and European companies to share information and lessons learned in working together. Today, we will hear from both Myanmar and European business leaders how they catalyse innovation and the role they play as an engine of economic growth in Myanmar.
Mr Vice-President, allow me to highlight some of your Government's achievements since 2016 to make the investment climate more predictable and favourable.
Some of the notable reforms are a new companies law, a new investment law, an online companies registration system, liberalization of the financial market, and the expansion of the range of currencies allowable for the settlement of border trade. Let me add – a stable macroeconomic environment, and a wise and careful approach to foreign lending.
Myanmar's economy is growing. In 2018, Myanmar’s real GDP growth rate was 6.2 %, one of the highest in the region. As a result, you are making good progress on most Sustainable Development Goals.
However, I think everyone in this room knows, and wishes, that it was higher, more sustainable and more equitable.
Building roads and bridges is perhaps the easy part. We know the difficult historical legacy inherited from the past. Ending conflict, re-establishing and defending human rights, fighting corruption and environmental destruction after decades of unsustainable exploitation of Myanmar's unique natural resources – instating rule of law and a Union budget investing fiscal resources in brains instead of arms – these are the difficult challenges.
For this new government, the Myanmar Sustainable Development Plan sets out everything that remains to be done to address the legal and physical limitations to unleashing Myanmar’s full potential.
This annual event is organised, not to criticise, but to discuss these challenges, and how they could be addressed in our common interest. This event is therefore also a sign of the strong commitment of the EU and European businesses to boost economic growth through private and public investment in Myanmar.
Your Excellency, Dear Guests,
Looking around the world, and at Myanmar's neighbours, there is no doubt that their economic successes stem from strong human capital and hard work combined with openness to trade and investment. Yesterday, the State Counsellor visited the Czech Republic to open a new embassy there, a sign of historic relations and confidence in Myanmar's ties with Europe. And rightly so -- opening up to the world is transforming Myanmar for the better.
As Myanmar embarked on its journey towards democracy, the EU reinstated, already in 2013, its most favourable trade scheme, the so called “Everything but Arms”. Since then, bilateral trade between the EU and Myanmar has grown from 568 million Euro to 2.8 billion Euro in 2018.
Last year (2018), your exports to the EU grew by 47%, and the EU became your 4th largest trading partner and 3rd largest export market.
Last year, you also had a trade surplus of 1.7 billion Euro with us.
This surge in exports to Europe has benefited more than 450,000 women in the textile and garment industries. We're your largest garment and footwear market. Your garment export to the EU has already overtaken those of Sri Lanka, Thailand and Tunisia - and the potential for further growth is very significant.
We are the biggest investor in ASEAN, but in Myanmar, the EU is only the fifth largest foreign investor with an accumulated investment portfolio of 6.8 billion US dollar as of March 2019.
Therefore, speaking on behalf of the world's second largest economy, I would like to see more European companies investing all over Myanmar, in the different States and Regions of Myanmar.
Our private sector, however, is truly private, and while I am here to encourage them to consider investing in Myanmar, the private company leaders make the ultimate investment decisions. It is up to the Myanmar authorities to convince the investors to invest.
They will speak for themselves, but I'm sure they would like the Government of Myanmar, as would I, to urgently address the burning human rights issues and the reputational damage to Myanmar's corporate brand stemming from the crisis in Rakhine State.
You can do it, and the international community is happy to help.
Your Excellency, Ladies and Gentlemen,
European companies are global leaders in promoting responsible entrepreneurship, trade and investments, which responsibly manage natural resources. They wish to generate growth that has a socially and environmentally sustainable impact, which creates local jobs, transfers technologies and stimulates local production.
EU companies are long-term partners, not here for profit today, gone tomorrow.
Our companies help raise consumer and labor standards, serve as models of transparency, and demonstrate the highest level of corporate social responsibility. And we pay our taxes!
After decades or even centuries of unsustainable growth in Europe, the EU is focusing on sustainability, the circular economy and social justice. We have lots to do, but we strongly believe that it is possible to simultaneously pursue social justice, environmental sustainability and economic efficiency.
Today, we are exercising global leadership in fighting climate change, plastic pollution, and the loss of biodiversity. The EU is the world’s second largest economy, yet our Environmental Performance Index (EPI) is high. And measured by the gap between rich and poor (the so-called Gini Coefficient), European societies are amongst the most equal in the world.
In conclusion, as a partner for Myanmar, the EU represents an economic model which perfectly fits the challenges and ambitions set out in Myanmar's policy objectives.
This forum will help us succeed in implementing that vision.
Thank you for your attention.