Myanmar, Poland trade ties to get a big boost
Myanmar is now on Poland's radar, with high expectations for improving bilateral trade and investment.
The Polish Chamber of Commerce organised its first-ever business mission to Myanmar last week. Twelve Polish businesspeople participated.
Marek Kloczko, vice president of the chamber and leader of the mission, said in an exclusive interview that he foresaw the entry of Polish businesses in Myanmar in the near future. Myanmar has not received any Polish investment yet, according to its Directorate of Investment and Company Registration.
"Bilateral trade is at a very low level," Kloczko said. "We are seriously taking into account the potential of Myanmar in Poland. So we need to achieve improvement and we can do it very quickly. Their [Polish] knowledge about Myanmar is very low. However, there are two Polish companies registered in Myanmar now. But it is only the beginning of a long journey.
"I think the potential is huge. The only question is [how] to bring people together and to create proper relations between the partners. There are a lot of possibilities in many industries such as agriculture, machinery, LNG, [and] chemical industry."
Kloczko said the key challenges for Polish companies would be to acquire proper knowledge and to find appropriate partners.
"Polish people have very low general knowledge about Myanmar. We only know that there is a change in the economy here. [The] Myanmar economy is doing very well, growing rapidly. So we came here to see how it looks, and what [the] opportunities are.
"Polish companies taking part in this mission are active in different markets all over the world. So they are also interested to cooperate with businesses in Myanmar. We aim to increase both trade and investment," he said.
"We held close meetings with different businesses, partners, and diplomats to get as much knowledge as possible, to think over how we can do business here in a practical way. Our intention is that we would like to cooperate in various ways such as exchanging information, supporting UMFCCI in some events, etc. We are ready to help Myanmar businesses when they come to Poland."
During the visit, the Polish chamber signed a memorandum of understanding with the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (UMFCCI) to strengthen cooperation between the two organisations. Kloczko said the MoU aimed at long-term cooperation between the two.
"[The] MoU is a kind of framework for cooperation. We did not have cooperation [up to] now. It will make it easier to communicate with UMFCCI. We need to make sure [we] have proper knowledge about Myanmar. It will also increase opportunities for organising events and further business missions to Myanmar in the future," he said.
Zaw Min Win, vice president of the UMFCCI and president of the Myanmar Industries Association, said improving trade and investment and sharing technology and knowledge were priorities of the agreement.
He expects Myanmar companies to gain industrial-based technical know-how and to inherit highly advanced information technology from their cooperation with Polish firms. He also expects to increase production of high-quality food products and agriculture-based imports with the technological help of the Poles.
"This [MoU] will open a new chapter for enhancing mutually beneficial bilateral economic relations between our current business sectors and the Polish business sector," he said.
"We invite responsible foreign businesses in our new era of economic development. There are good opportunities for Polish businesses. We assure you that our federation UMFCCI will do its utmost to ensure all the possible assistance you may need.
"Poland is a well-developed industrial country. As we want to develop our industrial sector in parallel with the agriculture sector, we are willing to share the benefits on a win-win basis."
Zaw Min Win said the Poles should take advantage of Myanmar's strategic location and abundant natural and human resources.
"We share a long border with China, Thailand, India, Laos and Bangladesh, and about 40 per cent of the world's population are our direct neighbours. The domestic population is over 53 million and we have a very high potential for rapid growth and development," he said.
Andrzej Bolesta, chief of the economic section of the Polish Embassy in Bangkok, said Polish businesses were very keen on doing business in Myanmar. He encouraged Polish companies to start exploring business opportunities there.
"Polish businesses are the best for you because they know very well how to do business in a difficult environment - in an environment where a lot [of things] are changing, in an environment where institutions are not working properly. We have gone through that phase in our development. You are going through that phase at the moment. You may choose other businesses from other countries but you will have [a lot of] leverage if you collaborate with Polish businesses," he said.
"We will be one of the fastest-growing economies in Europe, as our economy is expanding. It is becoming like a big cake, and I see no reason why Polish and Myanmar businesses [cannot] cooperate together … This is one of the first opportunities to discuss business. And the best way to discuss business is when you do it B2B [business to business] because companies can discuss what you can do together," Bolesta said.