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General Electric signs Myanmar deals after US eases sanctions

YANGON, Myanmar -- Just days after the U.S. eased key sanctions on Myanmar, General Electric became the first American company to invest in the former pariah state, signing deals Saturday to provide medical equipment to a pair of hospitals in the country's biggest city.

Myanmar President Thein Sein held talks on Friday with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who declared the country open to American investment. The meeting in Cambodia was attended by some of the largest U.S. corporations.

On Wednesday, President Barack Obama's administration officially gave the green light to American companies to invest in the country, also known as Burma. Western nations imposed economic and political sanctions on Myanmar's previous military regime in response to its repressive and undemocratic policies, and the easing of sanctions is a reward for a series of reforms by Thein Sein's new government over the past year.

GE's deals were signed in Yangon the presence of Derek Mitchell, who assumed his job Wednesday as the first U.S ambassador to Myanmar in 22 years.

The agreements, worth about US$2 million, were inked with two private hospitals. Under the deals, GE will provide X-ray machines through Sea Lion, a local company.

“The recent granting by the U.S. government of licenses to operate will enable us to fast-track our plans to establish an office here in Yangon and execute our strategies, mainly in the energy and healthcare sectors,” said Stuart Dean, who heads GE's Asia operations. “We believe there is no turning back.”

Mitchell added, “My fervent hope is that we're going to be doing this on a regular basis.”

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