In 2012, the US eased a number of sanctions on Myanmar

In 2012, the US eased a number of sanctions on Myanmar

US Secretary of State John Kerry has reaffirmed America's support for Myanmar but has emphasised that more reforms are needed in order to improve investment in the country.

Speaking on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations' Regional Forum in Myanmar's capital Naypyitaw, Kerry moved to assure attendees and government officials that, as the country tackles the challenges ahead, they have "the support and friendship" of the US.

Myanmar/Burma is working to tackle long-running civil wars and humanitarian crises, and outbreaks of religious intolerance and violence. The country is also struggling to deal with questions of constitutional reform and the role of the military.

"So much of the history of the 21st century is going to be written right here in Asia, and the longest chapters of that history are going to be driven by what happens in Southeast Asia," Kerry said.

"That's why the US remains deeply committed to engaging the Asia-Pacific region, and ASEAN is at the centre of the region's multilateral architecture and it plays a critical role in promoting both peace, prosperity, and also a regional integration throughout Asia.

"It's impossible not to be impressed by the steps that the [Myanmar] government has achieved, the road and the journey that they are on to reform and to transition."

The purpose of Kerry's visit will be to "form his own first-hand sense of how they are meeting the significant challenges in connection with the ongoing domestic political and economic reforms," US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Russel said.

"Although we are mindful of the successes thus far and incremental progress in the democratic reforms, ultimate success is not pre-ordained," Russel emphasised. "It's a goal for which the Burmese are striving and it is a goal that we, the US, very much want to help them to attain."

Today (11 August), the top US diplomat will travel to Yangon to meet opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. From Burma, the Secretary will travel directly to Sydney, Australia for the AUSMIN - the annual Australia-US ministerial consultations.

A growing number of US companies have been announcing investments in Myanmar, including apparel giant Gap, in a bid to tap the country's underdeveloped economy.

In 2012, the US eased a number of sanctions, lifting some some travel bans and appointing an ambassador to Burma for the first time since 1988.

This easing of sanctions saw an increase in exports to around $1.2bn in 2013, a 33% hike from the year before. The Myanmar Garment Manufacturers Association (MGMA) is hoping apparel exports will continue to rise and reach $2bn by 2016.

Kerry added: “We’ve already made significant progress on a host of issues, and I know President Obama is looking forward to being able to visit in November when we have the East Asia Summit.

“We recognise the tremendous economic dynamism of this region and its people, but we also recognise our shared prosperity demands a renewed commitment to sustainable economic growth.”

Click here to read more on Gap's Myanmar move and here for just-style's snapshot on Myanmar.