US lifts Myanmar import bans
Moving to encourage reform in Myanmar ahead of a landmark trip by President Barack Obama, the United States has scrapped a nearly decade-old ban on most imports from the long-isolated nation.
The world's largest economy will open up to products from the country formerly known as Burma with the exception of gems, a sector seen as a major driver of corruption and violence.
The gesture is "intended to support the Burmese government's ongoing reform efforts and to encourage further change, as well as to offer new opportunities for Burmese and American businesses," a statement from the State and Treasury departments said.
The statement said Myanmar's government and opposition icon Aung San Suu Kyi both supported the step to "further integrate their country into the global economy."
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had pledged to normalize trade relations with Myanmar when she met in September in New York with President Thein Sein, who has startled critics by launching a wave of democratic reforms.
Obama on Monday will become the first sitting US president to visit Myanmar, making a trip that just years ago would have been considered unthinkable.