The US Embargo Against Burma
On July 28th 2003, US President George W. Bush signed into law the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act of 2003 (H.R. 2330). This act bans the importation into the United States of any article that is produced, mined, manufactured, grown or assembled in Burma.
The embargo and Pala International
The Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act of 2003 effectively means that any product of Burma, including all precious stones, pearls, jewelry and mineral specimens are now prohibited imports. It applies only to new imports. All goods imported before the enaction of this law may still be legally traded.
As with most companies involved in colored stones, we have a number of Burmese gems already in our inventory and it is perfectly legal to sell these.
Make no mistake, we at Pala will be following both the letter and spirit of this law. However, as this article shows, the interaction of the gem industry with Burma and its politics is not simply a black-and-white issue, but one deserving further thought.
Questions about the ban
- What about Burmese gems already in the US before the ban. Can they be legally traded
Yes, they may be legally bought and sold.
- What about Burmese gems which were exported from Burma before the ban, but did not enter the US before the ban. Can they be legally imported?
Yes, so long as it can be documented that those goods left Burma before the ban.
- What are the prospects for the embargo being lifted?
While it is impossible to predict, the language of the Act is such that it will probably take the installation of a democratic government in Burma for it to be lifted. And the prospects for the Burmese military allowing this to occur are quite slim. Thus it appears the embargo will be in place for a long, long time.
The following article examines the impact of these sanctions on the US gem trade, along with the entire issue of national sanctions.
- Banned! Burmese Gems in the Crossfire by Richard W. Hughes and Brian Leber. The case for sanctions against Burma seems to be obvious. But the reality may be less so. In this pair of articles, the case both for and against sanctions is examined.