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US caught in awkward embrace of Myanmar ‘crony’

February 25, 2013 • Business


U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs Jose Fernandez speaks during the conference titled “U.S.-Myanmar Economic Relations: The Path Forward” at the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (UMFCCI) office Monday, Feb. 25, 2013, in Yangon, Myanmar. Flanked by small national flags, Win Aung, the president of the UMFCCI, Myanmar’s main business association, and Fernandez shook hands in Yangon Monday and agreed to deepen business ties between their two countries. (AP Photo/Khin Maung Win)

YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — The image was meant to convey growing friendship between the United States and Myanmar, the world’s hottest frontier market. Flanked by national flags, Win Aung, the president of Myanmar’s main business association, and U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Jose Fernandez shook hands in Yangon and agreed to deepen business ties between their countries.

The awkward part? The United States still dubs Win Aung a “crony” who allegedly used his close ties to Myanmar’s old military rulers to build one of the country’s biggest business conglomerates. He remains on a blacklist of entities U.S. citizens and companies are banned from doing business with.

Their handshake Monday illustrates the complex and sometimes contradictory path the U.S. is forging as it tries to encourage new business ties with Myanmar while retaining moral sway over powerful economic, political and military interests it has long censured. Many praise the ethical stance taken by U.S. policymakers and hope that the Login to read more

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