The Upper Myanmar India Association, a trade organization of around 150 members, is gearing up to revitalize stalled commerce on the India-Myanmar border. First on its list of priorities: a new brokerage that will connect Myanmar and Indian merchants when border trade finally re-opens. In an interview with the Myanmar Times, Association chair U Ba Yan claimed that even before the pandemic, there had been untapped trade potential between merchants on either side of the border. “Even though traders from India want to do business in Myanmar, many have no point of contact there.”
Before the pandemic, Myanmar and India maintained a steady exchange of goods, with Myanmar mainly exporting agricultural products and importing finished goods, especially cars, car parts and pharmaceuticals. Nevertheless, India has been a relatively minor trade partner, with border exchange reaching only USD 201 million in the 2018-2019 fiscal year, according to the Ministry of Commerce. Border trade with Thailand, by contrast, exceeded USD 3 billion that year. Yet the COVID-19 pandemic has dealt a tremendous blow to cross-border trade with all of Myanmar’s neighbors, and the country has scrambled to rebuild its export industry with tax exemptions, soft-loans, and other benefits. The Upper Myanmar India Association, for one, sees this restructuring as an opportunity to expand.