Closer US and Myanmar Ties Bring Welcome Opportunities
As the largest international law firm operating in Yangon, Baker & McKenzie has welcomed the likelihood of increased opportunities for US companies in Myanmar after the White House announced that further Myanmar-related sanctions were to be lifted.
Leading global law firm Baker & McKenzie has had an on-the-ground presence in Myanmar since 2014, and is today one of the fastest growing law firms in the emerging South East Asian nation. As such, the firm has had firsthand experience assisting multinationals looking to enter this important market and has gained extensive expertise in navigating the evolving investment environment. Today the firm is actively advising clients who are interested in investing in Myanmar, seen widely as one of the last great frontier markets in Asia to open up to foreign investment.
Jo Daniels, Myanmar Managing Partner, Baker & McKenzie, said closer cooperation between Myanmar and the US, as well as deepening ties with Asian economic powerhouses, has the potential to fuel a boom in infrastructure development and consumer spending in Myanmar.
"As sanctions have eased over the past two years, we have seen a range of multinationals looking to set up Myanmar-specific investment vehicles, or include Myanmar as part of their wider emerging markets investment strategy. However, US multinationals have not featured as prominently in these discussions as other economic powers such as China, Thailand and Japan, in part due to the complex sanctions regime.
Following the historic visit by Myanmar's State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi to the US, and the decision by President Obama to further ease sanctions for Myanmar companies and state-owned enterprises (SOEs), we are hopeful that more US investors will begin to see the opportunities emerging in this great nation of 53 million people.
In response to growing US interest in Myanmar Baker & McKenzie has produced a detailed guide for US organisations seeking clarity on the sometimes ambiguous legal landscape in Myanmar. Doing Business in Myanmar for US Companies offers expert advice based on the firm’s extensive experience advising US companies on how to successfully operate in Myanmar.
From a US perspective, sanctions expert and US Partner Alison Stafford Powell said that this level of sanction relief could indeed lead to significant US investment.
"The biggest hurdle to US investment has been the continuing designation or "blacklisting" of key Myanmar banks, companies and businessmen. The removal of the Myanmar Executive Order will effectively remove the basis for most Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) listings and should have a positive impact on the appetite of US companies to invest in this still largely untapped market. Non-US investors should also find it easier to procure financing from major international banks which, as a result of suffering huge fines for US sanctions violations, are extremely risk-averse to touching even lawful dealings with anyone who remains an SDN. KYC due diligence is still important though, as several SDNs remain and the prohibitions extend down to even unlisted entities that are 50% or more owned by one or more SDNs.”
With 31 local and foreign lawyers and support staff already on the ground in Myanmar, Baker & McKenzie is already looking to grow its physical presence in Yangon to support this next wave of investment. Baker & McKenzie has a long history of involvement in Myanmar, dating back 20 years, including having a standalone Myanmar desk in the Firm's Bangkok office and a Myanmar support team in Singapore. The Firm is fully committed to Myanmar, offering clients both international and local law capabilities, with a focus on cross border transactions, infrastructure development and financial services.