November 1, 2016 4:00 am JST

Suu Kyi to push for investment, development aid on Japan trip

MOTOKAZU MATSUI, Nikkei staff writer

State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi explains economic policy in Naypyitaw on Oct. 22.

YANGON -- Myanmar's de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, will likely seek direct investment and support for infrastructure development during an upcoming trip to Japan, efforts in line with her diplomatic focus on economic cooperation.

Japan marks the seventh country visited by Suu Kyi, who serves as state counselor and foreign affairs minister, since the launch of Myanmar's new government in late March. This is her first trip to the country since April 2013.

During the five-day trip starting Tuesday, Suu Kyi will meet with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and other leaders. Planning and Finance Minister Kyaw Win is among those accompanying her.

The Myanmar leader is expected to urge the Japanese private sector to invest in manufacturing and agriculture. Investment in manufacturing tends to have a major impact on job creation, while 60-70% of the population makes a living as farmers.

Suu Kyi made job creation a top priority in her election campaign and in an economic policy released this past July. Lacking in homegrown industry, Myanmar desperately needs foreign capital. The government aims to draw an annual $6 billion in foreign direct investment in its first five years. New regulations passed in October aim to make it easier for foreign companies to take advantage of tax benefits.

As the opposition leader, Suu Kyi had called on the international community to assist in democratization efforts. But since taking the helm, she has made economic cooperation the focus of her diplomatic campaign.

Suu Kyi visited Laos, the 2016 chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, in May. She traveled to Thailand in June, China in August, the U.K. and the U.S. in September, and India in October.

On her Thailand trip, Suu Kyi pushed for simplification of the stay permit regime for migrant workers from Myanmar and called for more vigorous cross-border trade.

In China, she asked President Xi Jinping for funding assistance on road development and met with Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank President Jin Liqun. Myanmar subsequently secured an AIIB loan for a gas power plant.

And on her visit to America, Suu Kyi directly asked President Barack Obama to lift all economic sanctions against her country. The U.S. responded by ending a ban on transactions between American companies and Myanmar businesses that had supported the old military government.

On a trip to India, she secured memorandums of understanding on collaboration in three key areas: insurance, electric power and banking-sector oversight.

Japan has provided some 400 billion yen ($3.80 billion) in official development assistance to Myanmar since the Southeast Asian nation began to democratize in 2011. In September, Tokyo decided to offer 125 billion yen in fresh yen lending. Railways, water processing and other infrastructure will be the focus of assistance. Opportunities are opening up for Japanese companies in these areas.

Suu Kyi has remained silent on human rights issues stirring controversy within Myanmar. These thorny issues include revising a constitution that gives the military a political role and giving citizenship to minority Rohingya Muslims persecuted in the Buddhist-majority country.

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