Fashion chain Gap will become the first American retailer to sell clothing "made in Myanmar", a move which should help reignite former Birma's textile industry, after its military leadership had alienated the country.
First American retailer in Myanmar
It is not that peculiar that Gap focuses on Myanmar, as the country had been a large textile exporter before the military junta took over, with a 2001 turnover of nearly 625 million euro. The many embargoes Myanmar had to endure after it had grounded the leader of the opposition (Aung San Suu Kyi) meant the industry died out.
"The garment industry stands poised to become a significant source of jobs, exports and opportunity for the people of this country", the American embassy stated. It believes Gap's appearance as the first American retailer is more than a mere symbolic move. Some 700 additional textile workers would be hired, according to a local newspaper.
Two coat-producing factories
Gap will produce clothing in two Yangon factories, working closely with the US Agency for International Development (USAID). "By entering Myanmar, we hope to help accelerate economic and social growth in the country, and build on our track record of improving working conditions and building local capacity in garment factories around the world", Wilma Wallace (vice president of Gap's Global Responsibility division) said. The items, mostly coats and vests for Old Navy and Banana Republic, will be shipped this summer.
Ever since Myanmar pushed through extensive democratic reform in 2011, a number of American companies (like Coca-Cola and Pepsi) have returned to the country. American export to Myanmar subsequently rose from 9.8 million dollars in 2010 to 145.7 million dollars in 2013. Import from Myanmar has also risen, to 30 million dollars.