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Last updated in October 2017

Political relations

The Federal Republic of Germany agreed to establish diplomatic relations with what was then the Union of Myanmar in 1954. The GDR opened a diplomatic mission in Rangoon (now officially called Yangon) in 1973, after previously maintaining a trade mission there from 1954 onwards.

Prior to the suppression of the democracy movement in 1988, Germany’s substantial development assistance was a key element in its relations with Burma (since 1989: Myanmar).

The political events of August 1988 and the human rights violations in Myanmar, culminating in the bloody suppression of the mass protests in September 2007, severely strained relations between Germany and Myanmar. Beginning in 1990, the European Union imposed restrictive measures on the country, which from 1996 onwards were subsumed under its Common Position on Burma/Myanmar.

Since the country opened up in 2011 and EU sanctions were lifted in April 2013 (with the exception of the arms embargo), bilateral relations have normalised and intensified again. Federal President Gauck paid an official visit to Myanmar from 9 to 12 February 2014, meeting with President Thein Sein, opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and representatives of civil society, among others. Aung San Suu Kyi visited Berlin in April 2014, holding talks with, among others, Federal Chancellor Merkel, Federal President Gauck and German Bundestag President Lammert. President Thein Sein paid his first official visit to Germany in September 2014. Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development Müller travelled to Myanmar in June 2016

Economic relations

Economic relations between Myanmar and Germany stagnated at a low level from the 1990s onwards but there has been a marked upturn in trade since the country opened up. In 2015, German exports to Myanmar were worth just under 148 million euros, compared with 131 million euros in 2014. German imports from Myanmar stood at nearly 197 million euros in 2015, compared with 101 million euros in 2014. Despite the small volume of trade, Germany is Myanmar’s principal trading partner in the European Union, according to Federal Statistical Office figures. Germany’s main imports from Myanmar are garments and its principal exports to Myanmar are machinery, data-processing equipment, electrical and optical goods, chemical and pharmaceutical products, motor vehicles and vehicle parts. Henkel AG has been producing detergent there since late 2013. Hermes export credit guarantees have been available since August 2012. A large German wholesaler plans to make a significant direct investment in the near future in the free trade zone outside Yangon.

The Association of German Chambers of Commerce and Industry has had a Representative of German Industry and Trade (RGIT) in Yangon since November 2013. The RGIT office was officially opened on 11 February 2014 during Federal President Gauck’s visit to Myanmar.

There is so far no investment protection agreement or double taxation agreement between the two countries. The European Union has since 2014 been engaged in negotiations with Myanmar on the conclusion of an investment protection agreement, which is set to be finalised before the end of 2017.

Development cooperation and humanitarian assistance

Since the late 1960s, Myanmar has been one of the principal partner countries of German development cooperation. Particularly in the 1970s and 1980s, support was provided to a large number of businesses and institutions, some of which are still operating today.

Official bilateral development cooperation was suspended between 1989 and 2011, though small, non-official measures continued during this period. Germany also regularly awarded scholarships enabling Myanmar nationals to study or receive training in Germany. Since 2002, non-governmental organisations, including church-affiliated organisations, have stepped up their engagement.

In the past, Myanmar has repeatedly received support through humanitarian and emergency assistance measures (for example in the wake of Tropical Cyclone Nargis and the floods in summer 2015).

Official development cooperation was resumed in summer 2012. A debt remission and rescheduling agreement was signed on 10 February 2014 during Federal President Gauck’s visit to Myanmar.

Bilateral development cooperation in the priority area sustainable economic development supports projects involving the provision of funding to small and medium-sized businesses, vocational training and the general promotion of trade and industry. Germany is the country’s second largest foreign donor, after Japan.

In addition to bilateral projects, Germany supports various UNICEF, UNODC, UNFPA and UNHCR programmes as well as the UN World Food Programme.

Alongside official development cooperation, five political foundations – the Hanns Seidel Foundation, the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom, the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, the Heinrich Böll Foundation and the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung – are represented in Yangon by seconded staff. Church-affiliated and non-governmental organisations are also active therein the country. In addition, the German Embassy in Yangon works together with local organisations on so-called microprojects designed to improve the living and working conditions of the poorer section of the country’s population.

Cultural relations

The issuing of a joint declaration with Myanmar’s Ministry of Culture during the visit to the country by Minister of State at the Federal Foreign Office Pieper in September 2012 paved the way for the reopening of the Goethe-Institut there, which was closed in 1965, and for an intensification of academic and scientific exchange between the two countries. Myanmar’s Minister of Culture visited Germany on 7 March 2013. On 15 July 2013, during another visit to Myanmar by Minister of State Pieper, she and Myanmar’s Deputy Minister of Culture Daw Myint Kyu signed a bilateral cultural agreement. This was followed, in late September 2013, by the signing of a letter of intent regarding the restoration of a historical building in the centre of Yangon that is to be the future premises of the Goethe-Institut. Work on converting and extending the building is currently under way.

Every year, some 15 to 25 scientists and academics from Myanmar visit Germany for study or research purposes. There are currently five cooperation agreements between higher education institutions in Germany and Myanmar, with several other agreements in the pipeline. A German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) long-term lecturer worked at the University of Yangon from October 2012 to January 2015. The programme is to be continued, perhaps at another university in Myanmar.

A cultural event with a long tradition is the annual European Film Festival in Yangon, which is organised in cooperation with Germany’s EU partners.

German is spoken by some 1600 citizens of Myanmar and is taught only at the German faculties of the Universities of Foreign Languages (UFL) in Yangon and Mandalay. The DAAD lector post in Yangon will be filled in December 2017 after standing vacant for some time.

All of Germany’s political foundations are active in Myanmar. The Hanns Seidel Foundation, the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom, the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, the Heinrich Böll Foundation and the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung now all have their own local offices there, while the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation conducts its projects from Hanoi.

Disclaimer:
This text is intended as a source of basic information. It is regularly updated. No liability can be accepted for the accuracy or completeness of its Contents.

Additional content

A precious artefact from Myanmarhas, for the first time ever, been presented to the public as a 3D scan: the Golden Letter from King Alaungphaya of Burma to King George II of Great Britain. The project was financed from the Cultural Preservation Programme of the Federal Foreign Office.

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