Following his participating in Australia’s first official trade, investment and labour delegation to Myanmar last month, AMMA chief executive Steve Knott featured in a lengthy interview with the emerging Asian nation’s leading weekly business magazine, M-Zine+.
The trip was timely given the recent political developments which had already begun to promote broad international interest in direct investment opportunities in the country.
During this one-week delegation, Mr Knott spoke with M-Zine+ senior reporter Victoria Bruce, who put together a wide-ranging article on resources operations and how the AMMA CEO believes engagement with the Australian private sector could assist Myanmar’s economic development.
“Myanmar is a country that’s in rapid transition with an abundance of opportunities and rich endowment of a variety of central resources, be that agriculture, water, mining, and oil and gas,” Mr Knott said in his interview with M-Zine+ magazine.
“However, it’s set against the backdrop of enormous challenges to have a regulatory and investment framework, labour standards to attract the necessary foreign investment to get those major projects or major investment initiatives up and running.
“The key theme throughout the week in all the meetings we’ve had with various ministerial staff members, ministers, the President and a range of NGOs, is that there has to be, for foreign investment, clear transparency on the investment decisions that are going to be made.
“Part of their license to operate is to be able to show that the investment process is both sound and the funds are being directed to the areas of appropriate need for major projects so investment certainty is critical.
“Another issue which led to Australia lifting their sanctions against Myanmar, where some other countries opted to only suspend their sanctions, was in a large part due to Myanmar agree- ing to a program set down by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) do deal with two key issues.
“These were reducing the worst forms of child labour – taking steps to eliminate that – and allowing trade unions to be formed as well as employer organisations.”
Mr Knott also explained the skills and labour significance of the high levels of investment in Australia’s resource industry, totalling more than $500 billion in projects slated for our shores.
He said Australia exports a lot of resources expertise around the globe but typically has not been very engaged with Myanmar on either a technology or project investment basis – something he hopes can occur as the nation develops its framework for corporate social responsibility and first-world regulatory control.
“The Labour, Trade and Investment Mission to Myanmar, Australia’s first official mission of this nature, did include meetings with President Thein Sein, an array of Ministers and NGOs, the Central Bank and (Opposition Leader) Aung San Suu Kyi,” Mr Knott told M-Zine+ magazine.
“Against this background for Myanmar, issues like the basis for foreign investment, business transparency, financial regulations, judiciary, observance of ILO core labour standards, reliable energy supplies, infrastructure, peace talks and so forth were all discussed in an open manner.”
AMMA members are invited to read Steve Knott’s full Q&A feature article with Myanmar M-Zine+ magazine here.