Myanmar textile exports 'set to surge'

Myanmar is on course for a big jump in textile exports to Europe following the return of trade privileges by the European Union (EU), according to the Thailand Textile Institute.

Myanmar women work at a garment factory in Yangon. The country's reinstatement to the EU's Generalised System of Preferences is expected to significantly boost its textile exports. (AP file photo)

The lifting of the ban on Myanmar under the EU's Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) would rapidly drive up Myanmar's exports of textiles, it said. The institute did not predict the size of the increaee, but said it would be significant.

Myanmar's textile exports rose 18% last year over 2011, totalling US$946 million (27 billion baht).

The EU reinstated trade benefits to Myanmar on April 22 in the wake of democratic reforms after years under the rule of a military junta. Garments are a key industrial sector of the country. Myanmar was struck off the GSP list in 2003 to a protest against the country's dictatorship.

Many textile producers, including companies in Thailand, have relocated to Myanmar in expectation of benefiting from the GSP, low wages and abundant labour. In Myanmar the minimum monthly wage is US$32, compared with $90 in Cambodia and $100 in Vietnam. Myanmar has a 32.5 million-strong work force in a population of 55 million.

The Thailand Textile Institute warned of poor infrastructure in Myanmar, including inadequate electricity  supply and lack of facilities at Yangon port, which it said is hampering business. 

The EU grants GSP privileges to less developed and developing countries as a means to help their exports to the EU.

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Writer: Saritdet Marukatat