At a seminar on investment into Myanmar held in HCMC on Thursday, Edwin Vanderbruggen of VDB Loi Law Co. said despite the imperfect new law, Myanmar now is changing at a rapid rate.

He compared the case of Myanmar to that of Vietnam, saying the country has still attracted large numbers of foreign investors in spite of its incomplete legal corridor and yet-to-be-favorable business environment.

At the moment, Myanmar is considered the last attractive destination in Southeast Asia to foreign enterprises, he told the seminar held by the Malaysian Enterprises Department in Vietnam.

Vanderbruggen has already provided consulting services to petroleum companies, distributors and assets and private funds investing in Myanmar.

Foreign investors have considered sky-high tax levels in Myanmar the biggest barrier discouraging them from participating in the market, he pointed out. But the newly-issued law allows new investors to be subject to tax exemption for up to five years compared to only three years as specified in the 1988 law and this is really worth consideration, he said.

The new law is also loosened compared to the old regulations issued in 1988 regarding investment. Foreign entities are currently allowed to pour capital into mining, industrial and manufacturing sectors, construction, transport and repairing services, road transport or hotels.

However, a number of business activities with foreign investment will be banned or restricted in certain areas or business spheres.

Vanderburggen predicted there would be a lot of changes in the coming time which are expected to pave the way for Myanmar to join the ASEAN + China free trade zone in 2015.

A slew of enterprises have shown keen interest in the market, including foreign-invested companies operational in Vietnam.

Bill Watson, general director of Coats Phong Phu Co. in Vietnam, said he is considering a convenient point of time to make investment into Myanmar.

Several other big companies at the seminar said they had plans to open their representative offices in Myanmar soon. Therefore, there might be a tough race among foreign firms in Vietnam as well as Vietnamese companies and investors from other regional nations to invest into Myanmar in the near future.

Vietnamese firms like CT Group and Huu Lien A Chau along with many firms under the Association of High-Quality Vietnamese Goods Producers over the past time have sought ways to approach the Myanmar market to sound out investment and trade opportunities.

By Hoang Phi - The Saigon Times Daily - November 11, 2012