Contributing Lawyers


Cyndee Todgham Cherniak

United States

Susan Kohn Ross


Andrew Hudson

Is It Time For Canada To End Economic Sanctions/Trade Restrictions Against Burma (Myanmar)?

This is difficult question. Should the Government of Canada cancel the unilateral economic sanctions/trade restrictions imposed against Burma pursuant to the Special Economic Measures Act (Canada) and the Special Economic Measures (Burma) Regulations? Should Canada remove Burma/Myanmar from the area control list?

Some of Canada's most restrictive economic sanctions are imposed against Burma. Persons in Canada (including Canadian businesses) and Canadians outside Canada (including foreign branches and representative offices of Canadian businesses) are severely restricted in terms of undertaking business activities (import, export, financial services, transportation, services, foreign operations, etc.) connected in any way to Burma (anyone in Burma and not just the regime).

Canadian businesses are losing opportunities to businesses in China, Thailand, Hong Kong, etc. The BBC reports that "Burma gets a record $20 B in foreign investment" - see

"China invested $8.27bn in the year to March 2011, followed by Hong Kong with $5.39bn and Thailand with $2.94bn, according to the Ministry of National Planning Development."

One the one hand, there are opportunities for Canadian businesses. China is investing in power projects. Canadian companies could do that too. Canadian businesses have equipment and nation-improvement technology that could be sold to Burma and Burmese projects if the sanctions were listed. Canadian financial institutions and engineering firm, architects, environmental service providers, etc. could get involved in the projects and on the ground. Not to mention that Burma has wonderful furniture that some Canadians would like to have in their homes.

On the other hand, Canadian businesses may lose their investments if the democratic movement reverses course and violence erupts again in this fragile nation. Yes - Nobel Peace Prize-winner Aung San Suu Kyi has been released from house arrest. Yes- The government/ ruling junta held elections last year for the first time in 22 years. Are these changes permanent enough yet?

While there is downside risk, there is upside benefits that are not being recognized. If the downside risk was managed by businesses (maybe with the assistance of EDC), could the upside opportunities outweigh the downside risk? I am just asking ... is it time for a change in Canada's approach to Burma?

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