Suu Kyi Meets Obama in Washington for First Time as Myanmar Leader

With Suu Kyi no longer an opposition figure, the US is weighing a further easing of sanctions against Myanmar.

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US President Barack Obama, right, walks out with Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi at her home before the start of their joint news conference in Yangon, Myanmar on Wednesday, 14 Sept. (Photo: AP)

Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi met President Barack Obama at the White House, on Wednesday, on her first visit to the United States since her party won a sweeping victory in last year’s election, capping a more than a decade-long journey from political prisoner to national leader.

With Suu Kyi no longer in opposition, the United States is weighing a further easing of sanctions against Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, as Obama looks to normalize relations with a country that Washington had shunned previously, when it was ruled by a military junta.

Earlier it was about encouraging her (Suu Kyi) and supporting her in her role as someone pushing for increased democracy. Now they (US officials) are meeting someone in charge of the government. 
Murray Hiebert, a Southeast Asia expert at Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies
Barack Obama shakes hands with  Aung San Suu Kyi as they speak to media at the conclusion of a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, 14 Sept 2016. (Photo: AP) 
Barack Obama shakes hands with Aung San Suu Kyi as they speak to media at the conclusion of a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, 14 Sept 2016. (Photo: AP) 

Obama is expected to consult with Suu Kyi on whether to further ease US sanctions to help investment and the democratic transition in her country, the White House said.

As Suu Kyi arrived at the White House, Obama issued a statement saying he would reinstate Myanmar to the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), which provides duty-free treatment for goods from poor and developing countries.

Myanmar will now be able to export about 5,000 products to the United States duty-free from 13 November. This will help the Myanmar government create jobs and reduce poverty in a country where per capita income is estimated at $1,280, the official said.

Myanmar was removed from GSP benefits in 1989 following pro-democracy uprisings a year earlier that were brutally suppressed by the ruling military junta.

Secretary Kerry and Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi pose for a photograph prior to having lunch at Blair House in Washington. (Photo: AP)
Secretary Kerry and Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi pose for a photograph prior to having lunch at Blair House in Washington. (Photo: AP)

The United States eased some sanctions against Myanmar earlier this year to support political reform but maintained most of its economic restrictions with an eye toward penalizing those it views as hampering the democratically elected government.

The United States is now prepared to lift sanctions that we have imposed on Burma for quite some time.
President Barack Obama

With Suu Kyi in Washington, officials in Myanmar said the government there was making a push to overhaul rules on new foreign investment this week.

New investment approvals have fallen since Suu Kyi took power in April and some businesses and investors have criticised her for failing to prioritise the economy.

Separately, a group of 46 non-governmental organizations circulated a letter they wrote to Obama on Monday expressing concern about reports of plans to ease sanctions on Myanmar while human rights abuses by the military and against Rohingya Muslims persisted.

(The article has been edited for length.)

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