Obama Brings Bankster and Oil Curses to Burma

After I read Obama’s Executive Order opening up trade with Burma, I joked,

Wait. We’re exporting FINANCIAL SERVICES to Myanmar? This is considered a favor to them?

Seriously. Sending our financial services to another country is, these days, the equivalent of bombing them.

Just as–probably more–troubling though are the concerns Josh Rogin lays out about Obama green-lighting investment in the Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise, off of which the military profits.

[Aung San] Suu Kyi, who was elected to Burma’s parliament in April after more than two decades of house arrest, last month specifically asked foreign governments not to allow their companies to partner with MOGE at this time.

“The Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE) … with which all foreign participation in the energy sector takes place through joint venture arrangements, lacks both transparency and accountability at present,” she said June 14 in a speech in Geneva. “The [Myanmar] government needs to apply internationally recognized standards such as the IMF code of good practices on fiscal transparency. Other countries could help by not allowing their own companies to partner [with] MOGE unless it was signed up to such codes.”

The Obama administration has repeatedly said that it would follow Suu Kyi’s lead while cautiously opening up to closer ties with the Burmese regime. The new U.S. ambassador to Burma Derek Mitchell arrived there today.


Following a Deputies Committee meeting last week, the side that advocated for a broader repeal of the investment ban won out. That side included the State Department’s East Asian and Pacific affairs bureau (EAP), led by Assistant Secretary Kurt Campbell, the economics office at State led by Undersecretary Robert Hormats, and the Treasury and Commerce departments.

While the Treasury version of today’s news imposes human rights (but not profit) controls on investments over $500,000 and threatens sanctions on anyone threatening the peace in Burma (this is akin to the sanctions passed on Yemen),

The order provides new authority to impose blocking sanctions on persons determined by the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with or at the recommendation of the Secretary of State:  to have engaged in acts that directly or indirectly threaten the peace, security, or stability of Burma, such as actions that have the purpose or effect of undermining or obstructing the political reform process or the peace process with ethnic minorities in Burma;

Ultimately, it’s Treasury–one of the entities that overrode the human rights advocates in this debate and has proven unable to regulate our own banksters–that gets to decide what constitutes peace.

There’s a very long, almost universal history of bad outcomes associated with big investments in oil. And yet the only safeguard Obama has put in place to prevent the oil curse from spoiling this really superb development–the opening of Burma–is the diligence of the Treasury Department that refuses to even reign in our own cursed industries.

3 replies
  1. eCAHNomics says:

    I knew from the second Hillary visited Myanmar that this deal was crooked beyond anything my wild imagination could come up with.

    Now it’s just a Q of waiting for details.

  2. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Burma is about bottom of the list of countries with serious potential for democratization. As for privatization, the bulk of the country’s resources are in the hands of the military, that is, those not leased for extraction to the Chinese, largely through its military-controlled enterprises. As for inherent country and business risk, Burma ranks near the top.

    So what’s in it for the US? No doubt, the intel boys and girls would like to play ball there. Burma is more secretive, out-of-the-way and “gloves off” than Thailand and many, formerly preferred sites in the Middle East.

    As with countries like the Congo, Burma is a great place for the banksters to troll for “private clients” with huge sums to invest, who want to avoid accountability for their ill-gotten gains and the risk of paying taxes on them by burying them in offshore tax havens. This is the US hoping to outmaneuver London and Zurich.

    Any claim that the US even hopes to impose meaningful standards on a SE Asian military junta runs aground on the exposed reef of the US’s own behavior, what with its drone-assassination programs, its pimping on a global basis for big oil, for US intel and military contractors, and for the FIRE boys, and its wholesale ignoring of US financial, environmental, antitrust and labor laws back home.

    All in, I’d say Mr. Obama is pimping for the MOTU and big oil, looking for the last place on earth they haven’t yet themselves raped and pillaged.

  3. quake says:

    minor typo
    that refuses to even **reign** in our own cursed industries.
    ==> rein

    But the govt CAN’T rein in our reigning industries. Surely you of all people know this. :-)

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