Step by Step, Myanmar Gem Sector Emerges from Isolation and U.S. Sanctions
Since 2008, after the passage of the Lantos JADE Act, the importation of jade and ruby to the United States has been banned.
With the emergence of desired democratic reforms and the rise to power of the NLD (Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy Party) in 2015, the U.S. government began easing sanctions to encourage U.S. investments in the Myanmar economy. The jewelry industry, however, remained frustrated, as jade and ruby remained the sole products subject to ongoing sanctions. On October 6, 2016, the Obama Administration removed the remaining sanctions, making it once again legal to import ruby and Jade from Myanmar.
After several meetings with the US Department of State, the AGTA brought together a coalition of industry groups, including the Jewelers of America, the American Gem Society, the New York Gem Dealers Association, the Thai Gem and Jewelry Association and a host of individual donors from the U.S. and around the globe, to initiate a fact-finding mission to better understand conditions on the ground in Myanmar.
On October 3rd, a delegation, which included AGTA President Jeffrey Bilgore, AGTA CEO Doug Hucker, JA President David Bonaparte, Dr. Jim Shigley of the GIA, Tim Haake, Legislative Counsel at Haake and Fetzer. and Erin Murphy and Peter Kucik of the Inle Advisory group, Myanmar business specialists, arrived in Yangon.
During our ten days in Myanmar, which included visits to Yangon (Myanmar’s former capital, Mandalay, Nay Pyi Taw (Myanmar’s administrative capital which houses Parliament), and the legendary gemstone center of Mogok, meetings were held that encompassed members of the gemstone industry, our current Ambassador to Myanmar, Scot Marceil, and his delegation, members of civil society, members of Parliament, and dozens of Ministerial representatives.
The delegation offered suggestions as to how the U.S. community would respond better Myanmar’s gemstone community, centered on the tenets of the AGTA Code of Ethics. They included separating the gemstones sector from the more problematic jade sector; a ten-year plan for the rehabilitation of mining areas; the development of a tax regimen that encourages compliance rather than avoidance; and the introduction of new laws that honor international labor laws, including child labor.
In Mogok we met with scores of mine owners, artisanal miners and their associations, and visited three gem-producing mines. Universally, members of the mining community expressed a desire to re-enter the global gemstone community after decades of corruption and mismanagement within the gemstone sector.
Yes, there are a host of problems plaguing the country and certainly they impact the gemstone industry, but it is abundantly clear that the people of Myanmar want to improve on the democratic reforms they have achieved thus far and they are serious about engaging the international community in building a vibrant and responsible gemstone marketplace.
To see the details of our visit and read the Myanmar White paper please go to http://agta.org/info/docs/burmawhitepaper2016.pdf