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Burmese Ruby, Jade Ban Extended (click to view article)

On Aug. 7, President Obama issued an executive order extending the current ban on rubies and jade from the former Burma, now called Myanmar. This means the ban will be extended for another year, says Jennifer Quigley, executive director of the U.S. Campaign for Burma.

The order “prohibits the importation into the United States of any jadeite or rubies mined or extracted from Burma and any articles of jewelry containing jadeite or rubies mined or extracted from Burma,” Obama said.

The gems have been banned from entering the United States since the Tom Lantos Block Burmese JADE Act passed in 2008. Some had thought the embargo might be lifted, given signs of greater democracy and human rights in Myanmar. And in November, the president waived most of the sanctions included in a previous import ban, while keeping the blockade on rubies and gems.

The import ban was set to expire this summer, which means that the gem ban would have expired as well, Quigley says. But a statement from deputy national security adviser for strategic communications Ben Rhodes noted that the administration did not want to lift the ruby and jade sactions just yet, as it still had concerns about labor and human rights in the gem sector.

“The administration is maintaining restrictions on specific activities and actors that contribute to human rights abuses or undermine Burma’s democratic reform process,” the statement said.

Quigley says her organization and others support keeping the ban, adding "there really wasn't much opposition in Washington" to extending it. As for what will happen when the ban comes up for renewal again next year, Quigley says "it's too early to tell."

Jewelers Vigilance Committee assistant general counsel Sara Yood tells JCK: "It is important that all jewelers continue to follow the restrictions on trade for these products, and be aware of continuing changes in the rules and regulations surrounding the trade in Burmese ruby and jadeite.”