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Thailand 2017 | DIPLOMACY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Kyaw Win, Union Minister of Planning and Finance of Myanmar, on the Myanmar Investment Commission and potential for trade and investment relations between Myanmar and Thailand.

Kyaw Win
BIOGRAPHY
Kyaw Win is a Myanmar politician who has been a National League for Democracy (NLD) Member of the Pyithu Hluttaw for the constituency of Dagon Seikkan since the Myanmar general election in 2015. Born in Labutta, in 2016 he was nominated as Minister of Planning and Finance in Htin Kyaw's inaugural cabinet.

What was behind the recent formation of the Myanmar Investment Commission (MIC) and what role will it play in boosting incoming FDI?

We just announced our economic policy for the year and the policies that we have set out are clear: we have to actively promote and support infrastructure development, as well as agriculture and industry sectors as they are crucial for job creation and strong economic growth. Clearly, a major part of this is to create the best possible conditions to attract foreign investment, which is why in 2016 we launched the Myanmar Investment Commission (MIC). The underlying reason of the new formation is to undertake the responsibilities of FDI promotion in Myanmar in a more pragmatic and efficient manner. The commission will play a leading role in attracting inward FDI in Myanmar; it will basically act as our national investment promotion agency. Moreover, investment policies are under way to improve our business environment, particularly through implementing rules and regulations that will help shape a stable economic landscape. One of the notable measures was to integrate our previous two investment laws into a sole Myanmar Investment Law, which is currently being drafted. In addition, we are also drafting our new Myanmar Company Law, which will play a significant role in establishing this secure and thriving business environment.

Which sectors of the economy show the most potential for future trade and investment relations between Myanmar and Thailand?

Thailand is a friendly neighbor to Myanmar, sharing several similarities in history, culture, and religion. In previous years, our cooperation was mainly based around border trade, agriculture, energy, and education. However, as I say to people in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam, and Thailand (CLMVT), it is great that we have such a long history, but now it is time to look to the future and turn a new page. In this future, we cannot have one-way dialogue or policies. What I want to see is a one-for-all approach. We have to work together more, consider our environment, and make sure no one gets left behind. As of June 2016, Thailand was ranked the third biggest investor in Myanmar, exceeding USD10 billion. But apart from boosting investment volumes, we are also working on developing new areas of cooperation, so our Long-Term FDI Promotion Plan adopted in 2014 has identified agriculture, food-processing, textiles, automotive, tourism, and IT as the most promising sectors, going forward. In terms of trade, Thailand is our biggest partner in ASEAN and our second biggest partner globally, after China. Given our proximity, cross border trade plays a crucial role in our relations. Along this border, we are building the Myawaddy Industrial Zone, which we expect to open in 2017 and to further facilitate business between our countries.

What impact will the recent integration of the AEC have on attracting investment to Myanmar?

The historical similarities that we share in CLMVT suggest that we are all one nation, not one region. Yes, we are divided into five states and brought together by the region, but going forward we have to behave like one nation, and the AEC brings us one step closer to these goals. In fulfilling Myanmar's commitment to the AEC for free flow of investment, we have undertaken tremendous reforms to develop an enhanced legal framework that will guarantee investors a level playing field in our market. To date, Myanmar sees the ASEAN community as a major investment partner, contributing significantly to our FDI. Singapore is our second biggest investor, contributing to just over 20% of total FDI, while Thailand ranks third with 16.5%. One segment that we expect to benefit greatly from the AEC is SMEs. We expect them, and will encourage them, to take full advantage of the single market by opening up their operations and collaborations throughout the region. Overall, by bringing our economies closer together, I believe the AEC will have a positive impact on Myanmar's economy.