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. Government officials and industry stakeholders gathered to discuss the country’s vulnerabilities and to identify solutions to improve a situation that has been enabled by weak governance, archaic laws, pervasive corruption and ineffective border controls.
Poor structural defence
TRACIT Director General Jeffrey Hardy said: “Myanmar’s structural capability to effectively address illicit trade has not been good. And this is evidenced in its very low score in the 2018 Global Illicit Trade Environment Index.”
The Index was produced by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) and evaluates 84 countries on the extent they enable or prevent illicit trade. Myanmar ranks 82nd out of 84 countries evaluated, with an overall score of 23.0 (out of 100).
“This means that, apart from Iraq and Libya, Myanmar shows the poorest structural defense against illicit trade. It also means we have a lot of work to do here, 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.”
EuroCham Myanmar has recently established an Anti-Illicit Trade Advisory Group to fight illicit trade and intensify partnership with the Government of Myanmar.
“Businesses here are prepared to partner with our government and share our investigative resources, data, and expertise,” said Khine Wai Thwe, co-chair of the Advisory Group.
“We’re trying to solve illicit trade in all possible ways,” reported 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.”
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 findings are intended to help policy makers in Myanmar identify areas that merit greater attention and to jump start the process of implementing strategies to address the serious threats. To encourage an effective policy response, Hardy presented a set of policy recommendations tailored for Myanmar. These included:
- 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 FTZs from illicit traders
- Intensify public awareness on the threat and harms of illicit trade
- Initiate partnerships to leverage the strengths of the private sector