US lifts ban of imports from Myanmar

The US has lifted a nearly decade-old ban on most imports from Myanmar

Under the deal, the US would open up to products from Myanmar with the exception of gems, a sector seen as a major driver of corruption and violence.

It said it hopes to encourage recent reforms in a move that comes just days before a landmark visit by President Barack Obama.

The statement said Myanmar's government and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi both supported the step to "further integrate their country into the global economy."

Along with the announcement on imports, the US Treasury Department added seven names to a blacklist of Myanmar firms with which American firms are barred from doing business.

The companies, four of which have addresses in Singapore, have been blacklisted as they are linked to what the Treasury Department described as two "cronies of the former regime".

On Monday, Mr Obama will become the first sitting US president to visit Myanmar.

Aides said he will encourage further change in the nation historically in China's orbit.

Ending the US import ban would provide a badly needed economic boost in Myanmar.

The US imported some 356 million US dollars worth of clothing and other goods from Myanmar in 2002, the last full year before the import ban was imposed.