Officials reassure businesses over controversial draft trade law in Myanmar

  • AseanPlus News
  • Sunday, 22 Dec 2019

Staff working at a KFC branch in Yangon. Myanmar Govt has promised that the heavily criticised draft trade law will not burden companies with another layer of bureaucracy. - ANN

YANGON: Myanmar’s heavily criticised draft trade law will not burden companies with another layer of bureaucracy and may be amended before submitting to the cabinet and then parliament, according to senior officials.

Trade Department Director-General U Minn Minn said in Nay Pyi Taw that the legislation was still in the consultation process and would be referred to the Attorney General within four months, by mid-April and the Myanmar new year. Lawyers for the World Bank and Germany’s development agency GIZ were involved in the process, he said.

U Minn Minn stressed that the department held various consultation workshops with the World Bank, USAID and other partners, as well as business chambers and associations.

“Some of the people say that you should amend some areas. We are still collecting [the feedback], ” he said, clarifying that the legislation did not yet have the status of a bill.

Trade officials stressed that, contrary to what some lawyers argued, the law would streamline procedures for investors, improve the ease of doing business, enhance transparency and help facilitate trade.

The legislation was drafted in English and translated into Myanmar language, before being translated back to English.

“Because of the several translation steps, some meanings may be changed or not lawful or something like that, ” he said.

U Minn Minn was responding to concerns expressed by business executives, as reported by The Myanmar Times, that the law would require many companies to submit to another layer of government approval and enable ministries to further regulate broad areas of the economy.

Lawyers also warned the lack of clarity and room for government intervention in the latest version of the law risk introducing more bureaucracy and protectionism.

Specifically, the legislation appears to require companies to apply for a trade registration certificate in order to carry out trading activities. Individual ministries will publish the list of businesses that need to apply for the certificate and further regulations for the “trade registration of individual traders, ” according to the legal text seen by this newspaper. Traders, distributors and foreign service firms in Myanmar will all fall within the scope of this law as “trade in services”.

U Minn Minn said this was a misunderstanding and the ministry has no intention to ask companies to apply for an additional permit.

“The definition of trade is a little bit confusing. Goods and services are under the trade definition so that’s why the services people think ‘When we do [provide] the services in Myanmar, we have to be registered under the services’ - this is totally wrong. It is a misunderstanding.”

The director general cited the example of telecom operators, such as Ooredoo and Telenor, who he said would not need to apply for another set of approvals to provide mobile services under the new law because they are registered with the line ministries.

The legislation would also authorise the commerce ministry to regulate the e-commerce industry but does not elaborate on the regulations. U Minn Minn explained that because it is a “framework law - an umbrella law” and the department will also issue another detailed regulation on specific areas, including e-commerce. - Asian News Network

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MYanmar , Businesses , Draft Law


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