U.S. Imposes Economic Sanctions Against Myanmar, but Two-Way Trade Continues

U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai announced on Monday the U.S. is suspending its trade agreement with Myanmar following the violence that has broken out between military officials and the country's civilians in recent weeks.

Tai said in a Monday statement that the suspension will remain in effect until "the return of a democratically elected government."

Though the decision does not stop trade between the U.S. and Myanmar, it does impose economic sanctions against the country, which the Associated Press reported serves as the 84th largest trading partner to the U.S. for items like vehicles and machines.

Tai said in her statement the U.S. supports Myanmar civilians trying to revive the democratic process in their country and condemned the military forces taking action against those efforts.

USTR will suspend all U.S. trade engagement with Burma under the 2013 Trade and Investment Framework Agreement.

We support the people of Burma's efforts to restore a democratically elected government, which has been the foundation of Burma’s economic growth and reform.

— Ambassador Katherine Tai (@AmbassadorTai) March 29, 2021

"The United States strongly condemns the Burmese security forces' brutal violence against civilians," Tai said. "The killing of peaceful protesters, students, workers, labor leaders, medics and children has shocked the conscience of the international community. These actions are a direct assault on the country's transition to democracy and the efforts of the Burmese people to achieve a peaceful and prosperous future."

Myanmar U.S. sanctions
The United States announced the official suspension of its trade agreement with Myanmar on Monday. Above, anti-coup protesters light flares as they prepare to defend themselves against security forces on March 28, in Yangon, Myanmar. Stringer/Getty Images

For more reporting on this story from the Associated Press, see below.

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.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki noted that the U.S. has 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.