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YANGON - Myanmar and Japan are making progress in bilateral economic cooperation, especially in the past four months following Myanmar President U Thein Sein's first historic milestone visit to Japan in 28 years in April.
As part of its aid, Japan was preparing to help Myanmar launch satellite in a bid to promote the capacity of the country's telecommunication and information sectors.
The initial feasibility study on the launching involves Marubeni Aerospace Corporation.
Under the project, Japan will also help in drawing space- related strategy via space record and provide in teaching space- related technology at the universities.
For launching satellite, Myanmar has set up a five-member central committee and a seven-member working committee.
In July, Myanmar's National Planning and Economic Development Ministry and Japanese Embassy signed a memorandum of understanding on Japan's equipment assistance worth of 2.416 billion yen ($30.24 million).
According to the MoU, Japan will provide 1.256 billion yen for upgrading health equipment in central Myanmar which will be implemented from 2012 to 2016 and 1.160 billion yen for providing equipment assistance for construction of dams in Ayeyawady Delta region which will be implemented from 2012 to 2015.
To help Myanmar improve information gathering ability, the Sumitomo Corporation of Japan has opened one more office in Nay Pyi Taw in addition to the existing Yangon Office which currently runs as the resident office of Sumitomo Corporation Asia.
The firm said it intends to make further efforts to uncover business opportunities as democratization and economic deregulation proceed in the country.
Sumitomo Corporation first established a presence in the country in 1954 when it opened an office in Yangon and operated businesses involving railway cars, construction machinery, automobiles, basic chemicals, and others.
In the same July, Japanese trading house Marubeni was awarded 3. 8 million U.S. dollars contract to overhaul the Ywama thermal power plant northwest of Yangon.
To develop Myanmar's financial and economic sectors, the Mizuho Financial Group Inc, the second largest financial services group in Japan, has decided to provide banking technology to both the government ministries and private companies as agreed by Myanmar president and CEO Yasuhiro Sato of Mizuho Financial Group Inc during the prior's Japan visit.
Mizuho Cooperate Bank Myanmar opened its office at the Sedona Hotel in Yangon on July 13 as a follow-up.
Japan stood the first with the most number of representative offices opened in Myanmar which include Dai-ichi Kangyo Bank, Mizuho Corporate Bank Ltd, Sumitomo Mitsui Bank Corporation, the Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi, Sumitomo Bank and UFJ Bank.
To upgrade Myanmar's city transport, Myanmar's Road Transport Department will cooperate with Japan Car Co,Ltd (JCCL) in running city public transport under mutual beneficial basis.
The plan was revealed by president of the Japanese company Kazuhisa Iwamoto in August.
The joint-venture project, which include importing taxis, city buses and highway buses as well as providing technical assistance to Myanmar, will be jointly implemented by the Myanmar Road Transport Department and JCCL, in which the Japanese side will inject 450 million U.S. dollars' investment, while Myanmar side will provide 3.057 hectares of land plot worth of 27.95 million U. S.dollars.
The Japanese side will share 60 percent of profits while the Myanmar side 40 percent.
Of the Japanese side's profit, 15 percent will be contributed to the education and social sectors in Myanmar.
Under the project, automobile workshops and technical colleges will also be opened in Yangon.
Myanmar has said it will import 3,000 new update-buses from Japan for the first time for running in Yangon city to partly replace the existing old-aged ones.
Moreover, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) is drafting a 40-year Yangon City Upgrading plan, aimed at helping to upgrade the backward former capital city of Yangon to a moden modern urban city.
The 40-year draft plan, expected to be completed by 2013, includes upgrading the city's drainage system, urban transportation, drinking water system, Thilawa Special Economic Zone and port terminals in line with international standard in collaboration with private entrepreneurs under joint-venture basis or build-operate-transfer (BOT) system.
In a bid to boost trade with Myanmar, the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) launched a business support center in Yangon in early September which is viewed as contributing to strengthen bilateral economic cooperation and boost investment.
In the latest development, to help Myanmar develop economy, three Japanese industrial groups have recently reached agreement with the Myanmar government to establish a special economic zone (SEZ), Thilawa, in Yangon's Thilawa Port.
Under the agreement, Japan's Mitsuibishi Corporation, Marubeni Corporation and Sumitomo Corporation will obtain 49 percent's stake to run the 2,400-hectare Thilawa SEZ, while Myanmar entrepreneurs in the form of public company, will take 56 percent.
The Japanese side will provide financial assistance to the SEZ' s infra structural development such as factories and workshops and one natural-gas-fired power plant.
Thilawa SEZ project lies between Thanlyin and Kyauktan townships in Yangon region, which is next to the Dawei Special Economic Zone project in southern Taninthayi region.
The government had also designed to enable Myanmar nationals to be able to establish a public company in partnership with foreign companies on joint-venture basis for the project.
During Myanmar President U Thein Sein's April visit, Japan wrote 300 billion yen (about $3.68 billion) debt and overdue charge of Myanmar from the past two decades to help the country move towards democracy.
While vowing to resume aid, Japan rolled over 198.9 billion yen of debt with a new development loan.
Besides, Japan also provided 5 bilion yen in aid to assist ethnic minorities and improve medical care as well as to support disaster prevention, agriculture and rural development programs.
According to Myanmar official figures, Japan injected a total of 221.25 million U.S. dollars as of May 2012 since 1988, standing the 12th in Myanmar's foreign investors line-up.
In the fiscal year 2011-12 which ended in March, trade between Myanmar and Japan nearly doubled, reaching 822.5 million dollars compared with 2010-11's $493.8 million.