Before the United States began imposing trade sanctions against Burma, more than half of the country's textiles were exported to American consumers.  With the suspension of U.S. sanctions, hopes are high that U.S. orders will revive the market.  But garment industry insiders say U.S. labor and safety standards mean the process will be a slow one.

Shaking off the dust

It is the first time Aung Win has returned to a former textile factory since U.S. sanctions forced it to close down a decade ago.
自从美国的制裁迫使这家服装厂关门后,这是昂温(Aung Win)第一次重返故地。

The vice chairman of the Myanmar Garment Manufacturer's Association says the factory used to produce polo shirts and other knit clothing for American retail giants such as Kmart and Walmart.

But, when U.S. orders stopped, he says more than half of Burma's 300 textile factories closed down and thousands of jobs were lost.

"The quantity that we are receiving for these last few years the order quantity is small and the style is so many.  So, everyone is waiting for the U.S. order because the quantity is big," Aung Win said. "So, the factory can make more money."

Most of the remaining manufacturers switched to supplying Korean and Japanese markets.

That has kept the industry afloat, but many acknowledge Asian suppliers have looser factory labor standards that may not meet U.S. requirements.

Meeting U.S. standards

Park Choong Youl, owner of World Apparel company, says the return of the American market is an opportunity for all.
世界服饰公司(World Apparel )老板朴忠英(Park Choong Youl )说,重返美国市场对每个人来说都是机会。

"If the United States lifts the sanction on Burma, then the level of the garment business will be upgraded," he explained. "I wish to receive orders from the U.S. as soon as possible.  The owners of other companies also want the U.S. to lift sanctions as soon as possible so they too can work on orders for the U.S."

Garment association chairman Aung Win says reaching U.S. compliance requirements can take up to a year and can be expensive.

Costly generators, to deal with frequent power cuts, and having to source materials from China puts the squeeze on smaller companies like Princess Power Manufacturing.
由于经常断电,工厂必须购置发电机,还得从中国购买原料,这些原因让大力公主制造商(Princess Power Manufacturing)这样的较小公司不堪重负。

Princess Power Manufacturing Director Tun Tun says they want to attract U.S. investment, management, and technology but they have to first meet standards for environmental protection, welfare, and labor.

"If we can meet those criteria they will place orders.  But, we are now just on the beginning of the changes.  Maybe some of our factories they have already established the criteria set by the U.S., I mean U.S. investors," Tun Tun said. "Maybe some of us are not ready yet.  But, we have to make changes."

Economic officer at the U.S. Embassy in Rangoon Machut Shishak, says he thinks American businesses can regain their lost ground in Burma.
美国驻仰光大使馆经济官玛楚特·史沙克(Machut Shishak)说,他认为美国公司能够在缅甸收复失地。

"I think part of that is a desire to diversify their source of production, out of China out of Cambodia, perhaps to reduce the exposure to different sole dependence on particular countries, to diversify that. And, also there are some advantages here despite the challenges."

Burma's garment manufacturers say once U.S. investment arrives their main concern will be increased wage costs and competition for workers.