Photo: AP Photo/Khin Maung Win
President Obama’s visit to Myanmar is being described as a historic visit since he became the first serving U.S. president to visit the country on Monday.Thousands of people gathered to welcome the president who spoke of bringing much need economic and domestic reforms to the country. But the U.S. has vested interests in the country.
Earlier this year the U.S. began lifting sanctions on the resource rich nation and companies like Chevron and GE have already applied for licenses to operate in Myanmar. Here’s a quick run down of why the U.S. is interested in the future of the nation:
- Oil and Gas – Myanmar is said to be extremely rich in oil and gas and 62 of its 101 exploration blocks are open for investment, according to Bloomberg. 34 are onshore, eight in shallow water, and 20 in deep water, according to Deputy Energy Minister Htin Aung. Myanmar is said to have anywhere from 11 trillion – 23 trillion cubic feet in natural gas reserves. It is also said to have 50 million barrels of crude oil reserves, according to the EIA.
- Jade – Myanmar is also extremely rich in jade, and despite the U.S. ban on imports of Myanmar jade, it continued to boom as Chinese demand grew. Jade export revenues topped $1.75 billion in the 2010-2011 fiscal year, according to Bloomberg.
- Teak – Myanmar is said to account for 75 per cent of the world’s teak and reportedly produces 283,000 cubic meters of teak a year, according to News Track India.
- Political interest – Myanmar is also important from a strategic point of view. President Obama’s ‘Pivot to Asia’ was an important first-term foreign policy decision to rearrange foreign policy to focus on Asia that includes plans to send about 60 per cent of the country’s naval assets to the Asia-Pacific region by 2020. Myanmar has become increasingly important as the U.S. tries to counter China’s influence in the region. It’s also because with ongoing reforms the Obama administration can point to the country as its only successful foreign relations achievement in East Asia, according to David Steinberg, Professor at Georgetown University.
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