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Friday, May 31, 2013

U.S. Sanctions on Burma: Issues for the 113th Congress

Michael F. Martin
Specialist in Asian Affairs

Since December 2011, the Obama Administration has waived many of the existing sanctions specifically imposed on Burma and terminated one sanction in an effort to promote greater political and economic reform in the country. Having waived most of the sanctions for which he had the authority to do so, President Obama may approach the 113
th Congress about the selective repeal or removal of one or more of the current sanctions on Burma. In addition, the 113th Congress may consider either the imposition of additional sanctions or the removal of some of the existing sanctions on Burma, depending on the conduct of the Burmese government and other developments in the country.

Existing U.S. sanctions on Burma are based on various U.S. laws and presidential executive orders. This report provides a brief history of U.S. policy towards Burma and the development of U.S. sanctions, a topical summary of those sanctions, and an overview of actions taken to waive or ease those sanctions by the Obama Administration. The report concludes with a discussion of actions taken by the 112
th Congress and options for the 113th Congress.

Current U.S. sanctions on Burma can be generally divided into several broad categories, such as visa bans, restrictions on financial services, prohibitions of Burmese imported goods, a ban on new investments in Burma, and constraints on U.S. assistance to Burma.

The current U.S. sanctions on Burma were enacted, for the most part, due to what the U.S. government saw as a general disregard by Burma’s ruling military junta, the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), for the human rights and civil liberties of the people of Burma. Burma-specific sanctions began following the Burmese military’s violent suppression of popular protests in 1988, and have continued through several subsequent periods in which Congress perceived major human rights violations in Burma. The result is a web of overlapping sanctions with differing restrictions, waiver provisions, expiration conditions, and reporting requirements.

In addition to the targeted sanctions, Burma is currently subject to certain sanctions specified in U.S. laws addressing various functional issues. In many cases, the type of assistance or relations restricted or prohibited by these provisions is also addressed under Burma-specific sanction laws. The functional issues include the use of child soldiers, drug trafficking, human trafficking, money laundering, failure to protect religious freedoms, violations of workers’ rights, and threats to world peace and the security of the United States.

On March 30, 2011, the SPDC formally dissolved itself and transferred power to a quasi-civilian government known as the Union Government, headed by President Thein Sein, ex-general and former prime minister for the SPDC. President Thein Sein, with the support of Burma’s Union Parliament, has implemented a number of political and economic reforms, to which the Obama Administration has responded by waiving or easing sanctions. However, the continuation of serious human rights abuses has raised questions about the extent to which there has been significant political change in Burma, and if the easing of sanctions has been warranted.

Date of Report: May 14, 2013
Number of Pages: 45
Order Number: R42939
Price: $29.95

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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

U.S. Assistance Programs in China

Thomas Lum
Specialist in Foreign Affairs

This report examines U.S. foreign assistance activities in the People’s Republic of China (PRC), particularly U.S. Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) programming, foreign operations appropriations, policy history, and legislative background. International programs supported by U.S. departments and agencies other than the Department of State and USAID are not covered in this report.

U.S. foreign assistance efforts in the PRC aim to promote human rights, democracy, the rule of law, and environmental conservation in China (including Tibet) and to support Tibetan livelihoods and culture. The United States Congress has played a leading role in determining program priorities and funding levels for these objectives. Congressionally mandated rule of law, civil society, public participation, and related programs together constitute an important component of U.S. human rights policy toward China. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the United States is the largest provider of “government and civil society” programming among major bilateral foreign aid donors in China.

In 2000, the act granting permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) treatment to China (P.L. 106- 286) authorized programs to promote the rule of law and civil society in the PRC. Between 2001 and 2012, the United States government allocated $338 million for Department of State foreign assistance efforts in the PRC, including Peace Corps programs. Of this total, $279 million was devoted to human rights, democracy, and related activities, Tibetan communities, and the environment. U.S. program areas have included promoting the rule of law, civil society, and democratic norms and institutions; training legal professionals; building the capacity of judicial institutions; reforming the criminal justice system; supporting sustainable livelihoods and cultural preservation in Tibetan communities; protecting the environment; and improving the prevention, care, and treatment of HIV/AIDS in China. The direct recipients of State Department and USAID grants have been predominantly U.S.-based non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and universities. Some Chinese NGOs, universities, and government entities have participated in, collaborated with, or indirectly benefited from U.S. programs and foreign aid grantees.

Appropriations for Department of State and USAID programs in China reached a peak in FY2010, totaling $46.9 million. Funding decreased by nearly 40% between 2010 and 2012, resulting in the discontinuation of a number of rule of law and environmental programs. The Administration’s budget request for FY2014 would also reduce Tibet programs.

Some policy makers argue that the United States government should not provide assistance to China because the PRC has significant financial resources of its own, some of them obtained through allegedly unfair trade practices, and can manage its own development needs. Other critics contend that U.S. democracy, rule of law, environmental, and related programs have had little effect in China. Some experts counter that U.S. assistance activities in China have helped to protect some rights, build social and legal foundations for political change, and bolster reformminded officials in the PRC government. They also suggest that U.S. programs have nurtured relationships among governmental and non-governmental actors and educational institutions in the United States and the PRC, which have helped to develop common understandings about democratic norms and principles. Other programs are said to have reduced environmental and health threats coming from China. Some proponents of assistance emphasize that U.S. programs in China aim to promote U.S. interests in areas where the PRC government has lacked the expertise or will to make greater progress.

Date of Report: May 9, 2013
Number of Pages: 17
Order Number: RS22663
Price: $29.95

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