Gap, Inc. recently announced that it would begin producing clothing in Myanmar. It will be the first American retailer to enter the Burmese market since the country installed a civilian government in 2011 after five decades of military rule. Gap’s entry is part of a partnership with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), aimed at growing the Burmese economy and expanding work opportunities for women.
Burma Mission Director for USAID, Chris Milligan, said, “USAID is pleased to partner with Gap Inc., one of America’s leading corporations, to improve the economic well-being of the people of Burma… Through this effort and other initiatives, we are encouraging responsible investment to improve the welfare of all people of this country.”
Gap, Inc. will also partner with CARE International to incorporate its women’s advancement program, P.A.C.E. (Personal Advancement & Career Enhancement), into its Burmese factories. Started in 2007, P.A.C.E. seeks to advance female garment workers through life skills education and technical training to help them grow personally and advance to management positions. P.A.C.E. has since helped more than 20,000 women in seven Southeast Asian nations. Gap will also work with Indiana University and Hewlett-Packard to further expand the P.A.C.E. Community Program through recruitment and engagement in HP LIFE Centers across Myanmar.
These developments follow the recent easing of US sanctions against Myanmar. The countries traded $176 million of goods in 2013, and U.S. goods exports to Myanmar increased by 120% from the previous year and over 2,000% since 2003. Two factories in Yangon will produce clothing for Gap’s Old Navy and Banana Republic brands, with the products expected to arrive in U.S. stores this summer.
Gap’s San Francisco headquarters is situated within California’s 12th Congressional District, home to a community of more than 1,000 Burmese. California and ASEAN, of which Myanmar is a member state, have a strong relationship. The state earned $14.9 billion in goods and services exports to ASEAN in 2012, supporting 90,000 jobs.
Kevin Lair is a summer research intern at the East-West Center in Washington and will be a senior at Washington College this fall.