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The Future of Asia 2019

Myanmar promises level playing field for all -- Huawei included

Minister says US-China trade war will 'not really damage us economically'

Kyaw Tint Swe, Myanmar's minister for the Office of the State Counselor, speaks to the Nikkei Asian Review on May 31 in Tokyo. (Photo by Manami Yamada)

TOKYO -- Myanmar will maintain a level playing field for all companies including Chinese telecom equipment maker Huawei Technologies, Union Minister for the Office of the State Counsellor Kyaw Tint Swe said on Friday.

In an interview during Nikkei's Future of Asia conference in Tokyo, Kyaw Tint Swe told the Nikkei Asian Review that trade and commerce in Myanmar should be based on fairness and mutual benefits. "That's not just toward Huawei but to any company."

Asked whether his country shares U.S. concerns over the security of Huawei products, the minister said it is "too soon to see what the effect will be."

He said the U.S.-China trade war would "not really damage us economically" because Myanmar exports mainly agricultural products and basic commodities across its border with China. "We are a very resilient people," he said. "We have survived the socialist times in Myanmar."

Some analysts say Myanmar could even benefit from the trade conflict, as companies look to shift production out of China to alternative countries. "I don't know whether it is because of [the trade war] or because of the normal attractiveness that we hold, [but] we have new companies coming to my country," Kyaw Tint Swe said.

The minister said Myanmar will "make the best" of any chance to attract investment, capitalizing on its low labor costs and investor-friendly rules.

Myanmar is a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which is promoting negotiations on the proposed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.

The free trade agreement is "one of the most important economic groupings," Kyaw Tint Swe said, adding that all 16 countries involved would benefit from the stability and rule-based systems the pact offers. This, he said, would provide "a big island of tranquility in the turmoil."

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