Rakhine crisis leads Europe to put off IPA signing

Rakhine crisis leads Europe to put off IPA signing

SAM Staff,
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In late April, then-EU ambassador Roland Kobia told The Myanmar Times in an interview that the investment protection agreement between the EU and Myanmar is near completion. Photo: Aung Myin Ye Zaw

The inking of the investment protection agreement (IPA) between the European Union and Myanmar has been put off until an unknown date.

On September 14, the Committee on International Trade of the European Parliament announced that it has postponed its visit to Myanmar, which was meant to finalise the EU-Myanmar investment agreement. The change was due to the recent developments in the country.

The committee’s chair, Bernd Lange, said that the delegation is postponed until further notice.

“The EP’s International Trade Committee decided to postpone the delegation to Myanmar to an unknown date as it was clear that the current political and human rights’ situation in the country, as outlined in the EP’s resolution adopted on Thursday 14 September, does not allow for a fruitful discussion on a potential EU-Myanmar investment agreement. It is clear that under these conditions, the ratification of an investment agreement with Myanmar is not possible,” he said.

On September 14, the legislature adopted the “European Parliament resolution on Myanmar, in particular the situation of Rohingyas”.

A well-placed source within the European business community in the country, who declined to be named due to the sensitivity of the matter, told The Myanmar Times that the delegation cancelled their trip because the position of Brussels is essentially that the signing of the IPA cannot be done “under these conditions”, in relation to the situation in Rakhine State.

The agreement would have been the first standalone investment protection agreement of the European Union with the country. In April, the European Chamber of Commerce in Myanmar stated that the negotiations “should be finished within a few months”. The IPA is expected to provide a level-playing field for European investors and promote corporate standards, hence boosting EU investments in Myanmar.

In late April, then-European Union ambassador Roland Kobia told The Myanmar Times in an interview that the agreement is near completion.

“Myanmar has signed about 10 investment protection agreements [IPA] with different countries but not yet with the EU. It is not good for EU companies and for Myanmar as it reduces the incentive for companies to invest here. Our companies are not on a level playing field with companies that have investment protection agreements. We have been negotiating this agreement since 2014, and are very close to reaching an agreement, which would probably be the most comprehensive agreement that Myanmar has signed so far, with high international standards. This agreement would indeed bring by far the best economic, social rules to ensure fair trade and the protection of workers in Myanmar,” Mr Kobia said.

The committee has not provided any indication on when the visit would take place.

The delegation of the European Union to Myanmar based in Yangon and the European Chamber of Commerce in Myanmar could not be reached for comment by press time.

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SOURCEThe Myanmar Times
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