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Commentary: Everything but common sense

Author: Frontier Myanmar, Published on: 21 October 2018

11 October 2018

The news that the European Union is considering revoking trade privileges for Myanmar due to alleged Tatmadaw atrocities in Rakhine State has provoked near-universal condemnation.

...Under the Everything But Arms programme...Myanmar has tariff-free access to the EU market. ...EBA has been a major boon for Myanmar's economy, particularly the garment sector.

...Trade and investment in manufacturing and agriculture directly benefit some of the poorest households in Myanmar. ...The presence of European buyers, who face more stringent due diligence requirements, has helped improved conditions for workers in Myanmar factories.

...Given the overwhelming evidence of abuses and the government's refusal to ensure accountability, withdrawing Myanmar's trade privileges could probably be justified.... But that could put hundreds of thousands of people out of work. It would be a textbook example of a misdirected sanction....

...[T]his is a risky and arguably reckless strategy, given the potential effect on vulnerable households....

...Even if the EU decides to maintain access, the review period is likely to dampen investment and trade, and could destabilise the economy....

The most important thing now is for both the EU and the Myanmar government to find a way forward that does not put hundreds of thousands of jobs at risk.

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