US Cuts Trade Ties With Myanmar Over Killing of Civilians

The Biden administration suspended an 8-year-old trade pact with Myanmar after the military regime killed more than 100 pro-democracy protesters over the weekend. 

Security forces stand by in Yangon, Myanmar, on Monday. (AP Photo)

WASHINGTON (CN) — U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai announced Monday that her office is immediately suspending a 2013 trade agreement with Myanmar until the return of a democratically elected government.

“The United States supports the people of Burma in their efforts to restore a democratically elected government, which has been the foundation of Burma’s economic growth and reform,” Tai said in a statement, using Myanmar’s former name.

She said that the U.S. strongly condemns the military junta’s brutal violence, which has been carried out against civilians by security forces under the command of 64-year-old general Min Aung Hlaing.

“The killing of peaceful protestors, students, workers, labor leaders, medics, and children has shocked the conscience of the international community,” Tai said.

Security forces reportedly killed 114 people on Saturday, making it the most deadly day of protests in Myanmar since the Feb. 1 coup, when democratically elected members of the country’s ruling party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), were overthrown by the military. 

Security forces are said to have killed at least five more civilians Monday as thousands of protesters took to the streets once again.

“These actions are a direct assault on the country’s transition to democracy and the efforts of the Burmese people to achieve a peaceful and prosperous future,” Tai said in her statement. 

In addition to suspending the trade agreement, the U.S. is also kicking Myanmar out of the Generalized System of Preferences. Through the GSP, the U.S. grants duty-free access to certain imports from developing nations that meet key standards. Myanmar was a beneficiary of this program, which aims to provide economic support to growing nations, but it expired at the end of 2020 after lawmakers failed to act.

The Democrat-controlled Congress and President Joe Biden are expected to renew the program soon, but not for Myanmar. 

Tai’s office says it will also look into the military regime’s labor record as it considers tariffs. 

“Reports that the military has targeted Burma’s trade unions and workers for their role in the pro-democracy protests raise serious concerns about worker rights protections,” her office said.

Military regimes, or juntas, had ruled the nation from 1962 until 2011. Myanmar’s election commission announced in 2015 that the NLD, led by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, had won the first freely held parliamentary elections by a landslide.

But following the bloody coup in February, the military arrested 75-year-old Suu Kyi. It shut off some internet services, took news channels off the air and announced it had taken power. The coup brought total military rule over the country for the first time in a decade, bringing harsh crackdowns on civil unrest that followed the takeover. 

Protesters, who have been on the streets for about a month and a half now, are calling for the aid of the nation’s ethnic minority forces to assist in their opposition to military rule. 

“This bloodshed is horrifying,” U.S. Ambassador to Myanmar Thomas Vajda said in a statement on social media. “Myanmar’s people have spoken clearly: they do not want to live under military rule.”

%d bloggers like this: