April 20, 2012—Myanmar’s economic reforms and the possible lifting of economic sanctions by the United States and the European Union could make the country attractive to foreign investors, particularly those seeking new apparel sources.
Speaking to apparel and footwear industry executives at the 2012 Prime Source Forum in Hong Kong, March 28-30, Michael Blakeley described how the easing of sanctions could spur growth in Myanmar’s apparel industry. He explained that while Myanmar’s garment sector faces internal constraints on infrastructure and capital it also offers a large and skilled labor force earning the lowest wages in the region. Sourcing executives are seeking alternatives to China, the dominant supplier, as costs there rise and as the government shifts support to advanced industries like information technology. The industry simply cannot ignore a new production source like Myanmar.
“In ASEAN itself, investors are highly interested in Myanmar and some garment factories in neighboring countries like Thailand are making moves to invest” said Mr. Blakeley. The ASEAN region is already capturing some production from China, but continued success will depend on the region’s overall competitiveness.
Mr. Blakeley is the director of the Valuing ASEAN Linkages under Economic Integration (VALUE) Project, which is helping integrate the region’s textile and apparel supply chain in preparation for the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC). Under the AEC, ASEAN’s ten member states will form a single market and production base by 2015, boosting their competitiveness vis-à-vis other emerging market regions.
VALUE is one of five projects in ASEAN managed by Nathan Associates and funded by USAID.
Photo: Shwemawdaw Paya, Bago, Myanmar; courtesy of Vera and Jean-Christophe via Wikimedia Commons.