By Daniel Hunter

Sheffield Chamber of Commerce has joined a unique international partnership to provide enterprise support for businesses in Burma.

The project, believed to be one of the first global economic partnerships with Burma for many years following the country’s recent democratic elections, aims to assist the Burmese garment and textile industry to become an international exporter.

Part of a European Union (EU) funded project, led by German Government economic development agency SEQUA, the £2 million Switch Asia scheme sees Sheffield Chamber, the only UK partner, team up with a number of organisations in Germany to deliver capacity building services.

The project will see the development of a greater number of SMEs within Burma and Sheffield Chamber will work with partners to help the country establish the capacity and structures to develop new businesses, and look for business opportunities for Sheffield companies.

Expected to run for three years, the scheme — which begins in April 2013 - will also see Sheffield Chamber provide support to the Chambers of Commerce in Burma and the country’s businesses directly.

“The principle aim of the Switch Asia business support programme is to allow Burma to compete with India, Cambodia and Vietnam within the textiles industry," Richard Wright, executive director of Sheffield Chamber of Commerce, said.

“However, businesses must first meet certain criteria to sell goods abroad, including meeting health and safety requirements, suitable working practices and implementing good practice in environmental issues, such as waste management and energy saving.

“We have got involved because of the contacts we are making to support our export growth across a number of sectors, but also because we can use this to get contacts and business for a number of our members.

“Asia is one of the regions predicted to deliver significant growth over the next few years and they will want to buy products that we make here in the Sheffield City Region. Lots of other European countries seem to be there so it’s time we went and got a bit of the action.”

Sheffield Chamber will provide training support for those who, on a long term basis, will train business support organisations and company workforces, and will also provide support and guidance to help businesses exploit new trade opportunities within the EU and America.

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