Since the departure of its military government in 2012, EU trading partners are once again welcome in Myanmar and CBI is helping the country to increase trade and create sustainable economic development. But there’s a lot of catching up to do, explains Minke Vorstenbosch, regional manager for Asia and Eastern Europe. “During an initial fact-finding mission we found that there is a huge knowledge gap in Myanmar in terms of the European markets.”
With some 60 million inhabitants Myanmar is an attractive market for European companies. CBI has started by organising a market access training there with its main local partner UMFCCI. “Our USP is our in-depth knowledge of EU markets,” says Vorstenbosch. “For example, if Spain offers exporters better opportunities than Denmark we tell them so, and coach them accordingly.”
CBI’s initial focus is on the seafood, tourism and garments sectors. “We are cooperating with the national fishery federation. At least 14 companies already have EU approval to export to Europe, so we can start working with them immediately. We will formulate a tailored Export Coaching Programme to help these companies with their export marketing campaigns and their participation at ESE, the annual international seafood fair in Brussels.” Myanmar is also an attractive tourist destination and to enable the rural population to also reap some benefits, CBI is promoting sustainable and community-based tourism there. In cooperation with the Myanmar travel association, CBI will link established networks and operators with EU markets.
While low-cost labour is an obvious advantage of its garments sector, the industry faces challenges. International organisations are striving for better working conditions, and CBI is concentrating on product development and diversifying exports to the EU. CBI is also an associate partner in Smart Myanmar, which aims to increase the competitiveness of SMEs that sustainably produce garments. “Donor harmonisation is vital to prevent duplication,” stresses Vorstenbosch. “Smart Myanmar is trying to make the production cleaner and more efficient while CBI is focusing on EU market access.”
Myanmar is a beneficiary of the Netherlands Trust Fund (NTF III), meaning that CBI cooperates closely with the International Trade Centre (ITC). “We still have to divide the responsibilities. However, CBI’s focus will probably be on capacity building for SMEs and support organisations.” ITC is also helping the Myanmar government formulate its export strategy and CBI is participating in consultation rounds to ensure its activities are aligned with this strategy. While emphasising that its programme still has to be finalised, Vorstenbosch clearly sees a lot of potential for SMEs in Myanmar.> Read the full article