By Kyaw Htike Soe
Photos: Ye Htut Tin (NLM)
Myanmar’s bilateral trade with Japan reached almost US$2 billion in the financial year 2019-2020, with exports surpassing imports, according to figures updated by the Department of Trade under the Ministry of Commerce in the second week of November.Myanmar transported commodities worth about US$1.355 billion to Japan in the financial year 2019-2020, a decrease of some US$75 million when compared to the same period last year.
The Southeast Asian nation imported goods valued at about US$574 million from the East Asian country in the same period, earning over US$780 million trade surplus. Myanmar’s exports to Japan in 2019 saw US$1.43 billion and imports from Japan were valued at US$502 million. Myanmar mainly freights clothing, footwear, marine and agricultural products to Japan and imports car, electronic equipment, iron, steel, medical apparatus, and machinery from the East Asian country. In terms of foreign investments in Myanmar, Japan ranks the 10th place with nearly US$2 billion invested in Myanmar, according to the government’s data. So far, total investments by over 400 Japanese companies in 150 businesses in Myanmar amounted to around US$2 billion.
In recent years, Japanese investment in Myanmar has been on the rise in many areas ranging from trade and industry to agricultural sector. Japanese companies are increasingly looking for investment opportunities in the Southeast Asian country. Surge in investment inflow to Myanmar from Japan attributes to the government’s steps to ease regulations in an attempt to attract more foreign direct investment into the country. There is still a lot of room for growth in Myanmar for foreign investors asFDI is a key part of the country’s growth strategy. The Myanmar Investment Law enacted in late 2016 is making the country a more attractive destination for foreign investors. Foreign developers and investors have been invited to inject capital investment in construction of roads, industrial zones, new towns, and beach resort projects as well hotels and tourism industry in Myanmar.
Located on outskirts of Yangon City, Thilawa SEZ is Myanmar’s first special economic zone and had become fully operational since September 2015. The governments of Myanmar and Japan have agreed to jointly create the special economic zone covering an area of approximately 2,400 hectares of land. At least 115 foreign enterprises have been permitted to operate their businesses in Thilawa SEZ, with around 40 businesses came from Japan and 27 firms from Singapore. Most of the investment came to industrial, transport, real estate and hotels and tourism sectors. Japan topped the list of foreign investors in Thilawa SEZ, accounting for around 37 per cent of the overall investment, followed by Singapore and Thailand. Majority of foreign firms in Thilawa SEZ are from South Korea, Hong Kong, UK, Australia, Malaysia, and China.
Since Myanmar, coupled with social and economic reforms, opened its door and paved the way for foreign investment in 2010, Japan has been actively involved in infrastructural projects in the country ranging from industrial sector to railway and road networks. Japanese government and private firms are keen to invest in Myanmar and help boost Myanmar’s SMEs and agricultural sector. Japan’s direct investment in Myanmar has been steadily rising in recent years. The Japanese government has been strongly pushing Japanese companies to invest in Myanmar which is considered by many countries as the last frontier economy in Southeast Asia region. Japan has been one of the largest providers of development assistance to Myanmar for decades and one of Myanmar’s main foreign investors over the years.
Japanese investment in Myanmar recorded an all-time high of about US$1.48 billion in the financial year 2016-2017. Japan’s investment in Myanmar was US$280 million in the budget year 2015-2016 and US$384 million in the financial year 2017-2018. Bilateral trade between Myanmar and Japan has registered US$ 1.845 billion in 2015-2016FY, US$2.032 billion in 2016-2017FY, US$1.922 billion in 2017-2018 FY, US$1.096 billion in the mini-budget (April to September 2018), and US$1.887 billion in 2018-2019 FY.