US exempts more companies from requirement to report on human rights approach in Myanmar - NGOs write to US Govt. in opposition

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20 July 2016

Letter to US Secretary of State Kerry opposing relaxation of Reporting Requirements on Responsible Investment in Burma

Author: Intl. Corporate Accountability Roundtable, US Campaign for Burma, NYU Stern Center for Business and Human Rights, Amnesty International USA, Investors Against Genocide, AFL-CIO, Global Witness, EarthRights Intl.

We, the undersigned organizations, write to express our disappointment with the U.S. Department of State’s (DOS) recent decision to raise the reporting threshold of the “Reporting Requirements on Responsible Investment in Burma” from $500,000 to $5,000,000. We urge DOS to issue a public statement explaining the reasons and supporting evidence to justify the need to increase the reporting threshold... There is a particular need to ensure that U.S. investments, large and small, do not exacerbate ongoing human rights abuses. This is why over 50 civil society organizations and companies, including Coca-Cola and The Gap, submitted public comments this year supporting the renewal of the Reporting Requirements and calling on DOS to further strengthen them... [There] is no evidence suggesting that the Reporting Requirements did create an undue burden on businesses that impedes investment in Burma... U.S. companies and investments are well regarded in Burma because they adhere to the “gold standard” of investment, wherein business operations are socially responsible and respect human rights.

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1 July 2016

US raises investment reporting threshold

Author: Sean Gleeson, Frontier Myanmar

The United States has enacted provisions to significantly raise reporting requirements for American investors in Myanmar... American companies investing more US$5 million in Myanmar will be required to file annual reports outlining their activities in the country, 10 times higher than the previous threshold enacted in 2013.

All firms operating in the oil and gas sector will remain subject to the...Reporting Requirements...regardless of the level of investment.

Rights groups had petitioned against any changes... DVB reported on Thursday that Earth Rights International had lodged a Freedom of Information request to seek publication of submissions made in favour of raised investment threshold by the US Chamber of Commerce and its Myanmar affiliate...

During its annual review of the Specially Designated Nationals list, which prohibits US investment with over 100 Myanmar individuals and entities, OFAC lifted sanctions against the Myanma Economic Bank and two other state-owned lenders...

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24 June 2016

Is the State Department weakening a key human rights tool in Myanmar based on a secret business survey?

Author: Zamira Djabarova, EarthRights Intl. (USA)

Since 2013, U.S. investors with more than $500,000 invested in Myanmar (Burma) have been required to report about the impact of their investments on human rights, labor rights and the environment. The U.S. Reporting Requirements for Responsible Investment in Burma serve as an important tool to hold U.S. companies accountable for the business they do abroad... 

About 60 organizations support renewal of the rule and called to strengthen it (including us)... Only two organizations criticized the Reporting Requirements. Their reason? It is too burdensome to find out if companies harm their workers or other people. Unsurprisingly, those critics were the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the American Chamber of Commerce Myanmar Chapter, known as AMCHAM Myanmar... 

So what did the State Department do...? While they proposed reissuing the Reporting Requirements, the proposal would increase the threshold of investment requiring reporting tenfold – from $500,000 to $5 million. The State Department decided that the Reporting Requirements should not apply to as many investors, effectively weakening the rule.

The positions of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce do not necessarily represent the business community. Individual U.S. companies, including Coca-Cola and The Gap, have spoken up in support of the Reporting Requirements, and no individual company submitted a critique... 

We don’t know what drove the State Department’s decision, but we have a guess. The State Department appears to have accepted comments by companies during the public comment period that have not been published or otherwise made public.

AMCHAM’s website features a survey about the Reporting Requirements – including the question, “What changes would you like see made to the current reporting requirements?” and the suggested response “Change the threshold for required reporting” – that it directed companies to submit to a contact at the U.S. Embassy in Yangon.... But neither AMCHAM, the Embassy, nor the State Department have made these survey responses publicly available. ERI has submitted a request pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act to find out what exactly went on in that exchange.

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27 January 2016

Reporting Requirements for Responsible Investment in Burma

[comments on proposed renewal of and revisions to US Government's Reporting Requirements for Responsible Investment in Burma, including by:

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25 January 2016

[Comments submitted to US Government on proposed renewal of Burma reporting requirements]

[Comments on proposed renewal of and revisions to US Government's Reporting Requirements for Responsible Investment in Burma, including by:

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