Reacting to bloody coup, U.S. suspends trade deal with Myanmar

Men in helmets and carrying weapons sit in a parked military vehicle.
Security forces group in Yangon, Myanmar, on Monday. Hundreds of protesters have been killed by security forces since the military takeover of the government.
(Associated Press)

The United State has suspended a trade deal with Myanmar until a democratic government is brought back to the Southeast Asian country after a bloody Feb. 1 coup.

The military overthrew the elected government, jailed Aung San Suu Kyi and other civilian leaders and killed and imprisoned protesters in the country also known as Burma.

“The United States supports the people of Burma in their efforts to restore a democratically elected government,” U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai said in a statement Monday. “The United States strongly condemns the Burmese security forces’ brutal violence against civilians. The killing of peaceful protestors, students, workers, labor leaders, medics, and children has shocked the conscience of the international community.”


Tai’s office said the United States was immediately suspending “all U.S. engagement with Burma under the 2013 Trade and Investment Framework Agreement.” Under the agreement, the two countries cooperated on trade and investment issues in an effort to integrate Myanmar into the global economy, a reward for the military’s decision to allow a return to democracy — a transition that ended abruptly with last month’s coup.

Tai’s announcement Monday doesn’t stop trade between the two countries. But the United States is separately imposing economic sanctions on Myanmar. In response to the military takeover, for instance, the United States and the United Kingdom had earlier imposed sanctions on two conglomerates controlled by Myanmar’s military, Myanmar Economic Holdings Ltd. and Myanmar Economic Corp.

Thai officials denied sending back some of the thousands of people who have fled a series of airstrikes by the military in Myanmar.

March 29, 2021

White House press secretary Jen Psaki noted that the U.S. had also slapped export controls on Burma and added several Burmese businesses to a trade blacklist. “We, of course, continue to work with our allies and partners and like-minded institutions as we condemn the actions of the military, call for the immediate restoration of democracy, and hold those who seize power accountable,” she said.

Two-way trade between the two countries doesn’t amount to much: Myanmar last year was the United States’ 84th biggest partner in the trade of goods such as automobiles and machinery. U.S. goods exports to Burma came to just $338 million; imports, to $1 billion.