Myanmar President U Thein Sein said on Saturday his country is eager for Chinese
investment, especially when it can create jobs.
In an exclusive interview with China Daily, the president dismissed reports that
Chinese enterprises are less welcome in the quickly developing nation.
“Chinese investment in Myanmar has not only benefited Chinese investors but also helped Myanmar people,” he said.
U Thein Sein, who took office in March 2011 after winning his country’s first elections in 20 years, is making a state visit to China from Friday to Sunday. He will attend the annual Boao Forum for Asia in Hainan province on Sunday.
As reform in Myanmar continues, several Chinese projects in the Southeast Asian nation have faced challenges.
“We very much welcome big Chinese enterprises and projects, which can create jobs, … to come and invest in Myanmar,” he said.
President Xi Jinping met with U Thein Sein on Friday upon Xi’s arrival in Hainan. The meeting was the first between the two since Xi was elected as president in March.
During the talks, both confirmed they would enhance their economic ties, particularly in cooperation on major projects.
A joint statement issued after the talks said China supports Myanmar in “independently pursuing its domestic reform and choosing the development path in line with its conditions with the intention of maintaining stability”.
According to U Thein Sein, despite the rapid inflow of Western capital, China remains Myanmar’s largest foreign investor.
The Myanmar president has significantly improved his country’s ties with the United States and European countries since taking office. The West has largely alleviated two-decade-long sanctions it imposed on Myanmar because of its previous military rule.
Last year, Myanmar enacted a Foreign Investment Law, and it is developing special economic zone legislation.
“Myanmar has improved its laws and regulations mainly to legally protect the interests of investors,” the president told China Daily.
The Wall Street Journal said in late March that the Southeast Asian nation boasts a huge untapped market covering multiple industries from telecommunications and banking to fast food and consumer goods.
China now accounts for 33.8 percent of all foreign investment in Myanmar, U Thein Sein said.
Chinese investment has flowed into 12 fields in the local economy, he said, and makes up 45 percent of Myanmar’s overall investment in the power generating, 33 percent of the energy and 60 percent of the mining industries.
Chinese companies have also participated in building up the country’s transportation, he said.
Among Myanmar’s top priorities now are increasing grain production, alleviating rural poverty and creating more jobs, all of which urgently call for “a large amount of foreign investment”, he said.
The financing difficulties are partially due to the previous Western sanctions, he said.
On relations with Beijing, U Thein Sein said the countries share a border of more than 2,000 km and since ancient times have embraced in paukphaw (fraternal) friendship.
“Myanmar received support and assistance from China when it faced sanctions from Western countries in the past two decades. China also supported Myanmar in regional and international affairs. The Myanmar government and people are grateful.”
In 2011, Beijing and Nay Pyi Taw agreed to enter into a partnership of comprehensive and strategic cooperation. U Thein Sein said he discussed plans implementing that partnership with Xi on Friday.
Non-govermental exchanges between the two nations have prospered, from border trade fairs to education, healthcare and culture, he said.
He added that the two governments will establish a friendship association to boost people-to-people exchanges.
“There are many people of Chinese descent living in Myanmar. There are no differences between us, we are one family.”
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