Call for Myanmar to Act on Illicit Trade

Credit: TRACIT

Published Sep 8, 2018 10:01 PM by The Maritime Executive

The Transnational Alliance to Combat Illicit Trade (TRACIT) called for Myanmar to urgently step up efforts to fight illicit trade, during a conference hosted by EuroCham Myanmar this month. 

Myanmar was listed near the bottom of the 2018 Global Illicit Trade Environment Index produced by The Economist Intelligence Unit. The Index evaluates countries on their structural capability to effectively protect against illicit trade, highlighting specific strengths and weaknesses across 25 policy, legal, regulatory, economic, trade, institutional and cultural indicators. The 2018 Index evaluated 84 countries on the extent they enable or prevent illicit trade. Myanmar ranks 82nd with an overall score of 23.0 (out of 100), above Iraq and Libya.

EuroCham Myanmar has recently established an Anti-Illicit Trade Advisory Group to fight illicit trade and intensify partnership with the Government of Myanmar. “We’re trying to solve illicit trade in all possible ways,” says U Ko Lay, Director of the Ministry of Commerce. “But we need law and order first, and that will pave the way for legal trade.”

Key findings from the index include:

• With a score of 85.6 (out of 100), Finland ranked first in the overall index, besting the United Kingdom by only 0.5 points. Other nations in the top 10 were Sweden, Austria, Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, the U.S., Australia and New Zealand.

• At the bottom of the overall index is a group of developing economies from all regions of the globe. Libya ranks 84th out of 84 economies, with a score of 8.6, and is joined by Iraq in 83rd place, scoring less than six points better. Faring slightly better were Myanmar (82nd), Laos (81st), Venezuela (80th), Cambodia (79th), Kyrgyzstan (78th), Belize (77th), and Ukraine (76th) and Trinidad and Tobago (75th).

• No countries were considered to be completely free of corruption. Only eight of the 84 receive the top score for this indicator, an Economist Intelligence Unit measure of how pervasive corruption is among public officials that ranges from “rare” to “the norm”. With the exception of Singapore and New Zealand, the economies where corruption is deemed rare all were in Europe. There were 38 countries in the index where corruption is “often encountered” or is the norm.

TRACIT says that the nation has a lot of work to do, especially in the areas of illegal logging and mining, wildlife and human trafficking, spirits, beer and cigarette smuggling and counterfeiting of all types of consumer goods. TRACIT recommends that Myanmar:

•    Work more closely with neighboring trade partners to address the immediate cross-border illicit trade issues
•    Engage more deeply with ASEAN
•    Improve interagency cooperation within Myanmar national government
•    Normalize the importation of foreign spirits and rationalize tax policies and subsidies to ensure that they do not incentivize illicit trade
•    Strengthen intellectual property rights enforcement to stop counterfeiting, including increasing criminal penalties and the effectiveness of customs procedures
•    Take strong and proactive measures to protect free trade zones from illicit traders
•    Intensify public awareness on the threat and harms of illicit trade
•    Initiate partnerships to leverage the strengths of the private sector