On May 17, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced in remarks with the foreign minister of Burma (Myanmar) that the U.S. government will be taking action to ease sanctions on Burma in the form of a new general license. A general license is similar to an exception to the sanctions and authorizes the performance of certain categories of transactions.

Currently, U.S. sanctions on Burma generally prohibit U.S. Persons from engaging in new investment, exporting financial services, and importing Burmese-origin goods into the United States, among other restrictions, including an arms embargo. Secretary Clinton stated that investment and the export of financial services will soon be authorized:

“The United States will issue a general license that will enable American businesses to invest across the economy, allow citizens access to international credit markets and dollar-based transactions.” Secretary Clinton also said that, “Our presumption is that our companies will be able to deal in every sector of the economy with any business. That is a rebuttable presumption in the event that there is a company whose reputation, whose practices, are not in keeping with our stated policies of corporate responsibility or other matters that rise to our attention. But the presumption is that our oil and gas companies, our mining companies, our financial services companies are all now free to look for investments that can be mutually beneficial to Burma and to them.”

Secretary Clinton’s announcement follows the lead of Canada and the European Union (which recently suspended their sanctions on Burma), and indicates a warming of relations with Burma evident by Secretary Clinton’s recent visit.

It is important to note that Secretary Clinton’s remarks do not have the force of law, and the Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”) has not yet issued the general license that Secretary Clinton announced. Also, there will continue to be prohibitions against transactions with Specially Designated Nationals in Burma, and other limitations will likely be on the general license. There has not yet been any announcement on the timing for implementation of this new general license.