Myanmar has been a WTO member since 1995. However, because of extensive intervention on the part of the state, foreign trade is more or less limited to the export of natural gas, agricultural products, gem stones and timber. A number of foreign companies, among them Royal Dutch Shell, ConocoPhillips and Total, were granted concessions in 2014 to explore offshore oil and gas fields. Foreign investment in Myanmar’s oil and gas sector had already stood at more than $14bn in 2013, making it the second biggest sector to benefit from foreign investment after electricity.
The freedom of private entrepreneurs to engage in international trade is restricted by import/export bans and regulations, high taxes and fees, complicated permit and licensing requirements, frequent policy changes,
corruption, and import and export quotas for certain goods. But with the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) a single regional market of more than 600 million people will be created by the end of 2015. The AEC will provide for a free flow of goods, services, investment capital and skilled labour.