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Anti-illicit Trade Forum 2018

A global illicit trade environment index has been commissioned to the economist intelligence unit by the transnational alliance to combat illicit trade (TRACIT). Myanmar is one of 84 countries featured in the index. The objective of this project is to improve the knowledge and understanding of the regulatory environment and economic circumstances that enable illicit trade and provide recommendations on priority areas.

Given the lack of data and information on Myanmar’s illicit trade activities, EuroCham will host in partnership with TRACIT and the economist intelligence unit, the anti-illicit trade forum 2018, as it recognizes how valuable information can be as a tool to raise awareness and mobilize action. This event on a highly topical issue, first of its kind in Myanmar, will take place in Nay Pyi Taw on September 5.

The objective of the event will be presenting the index findings, as well as Eurocham’s concerns as the EuroCham Myanmar anti-illicit trade advocacy group and industry representatives to relevant stakeholders and media. The panels will include leading private sector representatives, high-level government officials, key experts from international organizations and academics, including TRACIT General Director and UNODC’s Deputy Country Director. An overview of the index results, as well as in depth analysis and recommendations on specific issues will be presented by the different expert panels.

TRACIT keys finding information about Anti-Illicit Trade in Myanmar are: decades of political instabilities and civil unrest have sown the seeds of an extensive illegal economy, ranging from illicit trade in drugs, logging and mining to counterfeiting and wildlife and human trafficking. Some of the problem can be attributed to Myanmar’s long and porous borders with China, India, Bangladesh, Thailand and  Laos, which are difficult to police comprehensively. Inadequate or lack of control at such borders allows smugglers to move illegal products in large volumes. These circumstances have combined to facilitate illicit trade, the scope and depth of this varied illegal activity presents significant challenges for the country’s continued economic development and regional integration; it also presents significant risks to Myanmar’s environmental integrity (e.g. illegal logging) and the health and safety to its consumers (e.g. illicit trade in alcohol).

As Myanmar moves towards deeper economic integration with its trading partners via various trade agreements, and as it participates more intensely in regional economic cooperation with the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) Economic Community (AEC), there will be an urgent need for it to stand stronger against illicit trade. 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.

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. Regionally, Myanmar is well behind its neighbors in both ASEAN and APEC.

In short, Myanmar showed significant weakness in virtually all the 25 policy, legal, regulatory, economic, trade, institutional and cultural indicators examined by the Index. Except for its work in the area of Customs, it ranks either 81st or 82nd across all categories and indicators. Notably, weak governance and nascent state institutions, archaic laws, pervasive corruption and the vulnerability of its porous shared borders with some of the world’s most prominent exporters of illicit goods have combined to give rise to an economy where illicit trade flourishes. As the Index shows, the challenges facing policy makers in addressing underlying vulnerabilities in the economy remain significant. In this forum, along with findings from the Index, can help policy makers to better understand the regulatory environment and economic circumstances that enable illicit trade and identify areas that merit greater attention and formulate effective strategies to address the serious threats posed by illicit trade.