The legislation is expected to be approved by parliament within this year and the drafting was supported by the World Bank and German’s development agency GIZ.
The text of the draft legislation, seen by The Myanmar Times, seeks to “promote fair competition and support locally-produced products, acquisition of technology and innovation which will lead to participation in the global business sector.”
Under the draft trade law, businesses can import, export and re-export goods by obtaining trade registration certificates and licences issued by the commerce ministry, according to law firm DFDL.
“The draft law seems very modern, and as always, it would largely depend on proper execution and as per the intent of the legislature,” commented lawyer Nishant Choudhary, DFDL’s deputy managing director in Myanmar.
Section 6 of the bill stipulates the formation of a trade development commission tasked with implementing the law. The proposed body, packed with ministers, will be chaired by one of the vice presidents, with finance minister U Soe Win as deputy chair.
Section 27 authorises the commerce ministry to issue restrictions and prohibitions on goods and regulations in relation to the country of origin and other compliance certificates. It does not mention tariffs.
Section 34 empowers the ministry to send trade missions abroad and undertake trade promotional activities and exhibitions domestically and overseas.
In addition, a one-stop service board will be set up to manage trade-related licencing and approval procedures.
“Introduction of the one-stop service would be a very helpful and welcome step. Similarly, establishments of trade zones and coordination zones would facilitate trade within Myanmar and would provide a platform for Myanmar products to be marketed outside the country as well,” Mr Choudhary added.
“Interestingly, the [draft] law intended to regulate the e-market as well, which is largely an unregulated sector in Myanmar. We still need to wait and see how the legislated law turns out to be.”
The commission will carry out trade negotiations on goods and services, including intellectual property rights, and will further set up committees.
Myanmar’s trade deficit has begun to narrow after rising since 2012, according to the ministry. It fell to a year-on-year low of US$905 million in May. In the 12 months to end-September exports are projected to reach $15.3 billion while imports are forecast to hit $15.8 billion, giving a deficit of $500 million, official estimates show.
As of 2018, China is Myanmar's biggest trade partner in terms of approved trade, followed by Thailand, Singapore and the EU.
The government also recently set up the Myanmar Competition Commission, led by commerce minister U Than Myint, to enforce the 2015 Competition Law and investigate anti-competitive practices.