WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama has cleared the way for the U.S. Export-Import Bank to help finance exports of U.S. goods to Laos and Cambodia, the White House said on Friday.
Obama issued a pair of memorandums saying each of the two Southeast Asian nations has ceased to be a Marxist-Leninist country, as defined under the 1945 Export-Import Bank Act.
This designation will now allow U.S. companies to apply for financing thru the US Export-Import bank, which provides working capital guarantees, export credit insurance and loan guarantees, the White House spokesman said.
The policy change in is response to the commitment of both countries to open up their markets, the spokesman said.
It comes as some in Congress are pressing for renewal of U.S. trade sanctions on another Southeast Asian nation, Myanmar, which has charged pro-democracy advocate Aung San Suu Kyi with violating the terms of her house arrest. She faces a maximum five-year term if found guilty of the charges.
Cambodia and Laos, with a combined population of more than 20 million, are small markets for the United States.
Last year, the United States exported $154 million worth of goods to Cambodia and just $18 million to Laos.
U.S. imports of mostly clothing and other textiles from Cambodia totaled more than $2.4 billion last year. The United States bought $42 million worth of goods from Laos in 2008.
(Reporting by Doug Palmer and Ross Colvin; editing by Todd Eastham)