Ambassador Ravinatha Aryasinha on 19 February had a virtual meeting with Ambassador Christopher Wilson, Assistant U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) for South and Central Asia and reviewed bilateral trade and investment relations between the two countries. The meeting particularly focused on the limited use of Sri Lankan exports to the US that benifitted from the General System of Preferences (GSP) arrangement, and to explore modalities to encourage an increase in products that could benefit from GSP.
As at 2019, while the USA ranked as the number one destination with a share of 27% of Sri Lanka’s exports, apparel ware which constitutes 75% of Sri Lanka’s exports to the US does not enjoy GSP. Only 25% of Sri Lanka’s exports to the US benefited from US GSP. These include mainly rubber products, activated carbon and coir products.
The Ambassador and Minister (Commercial) Sumedha Ponnamperuma also discussed with Ambassador Wilson the timing for the convening of the 14th Session of the SL-US Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) meeting and priorities to be addressed. The last session was convened in Colombo in 2019, and the 14th Meeting of the Joint Council which was to be held in Washington DC in 2020, was postponed due to the pandemic situation. Ambassador Wilson who emphasized the centrality of the TIFA in the SL-US relationship, said the US hoped to convene the meeting early and saw it as a means of expanding the trade and investment potential between the two countries.
Ambassador Aryasinha and Ambassador Wilson also discussed the recent exploratory visits by US investors to Sri Lanka and was briefed on the interest shown by several other investors from the Western Hemisphere, including in tourism related projects. Ambassador Aryasinha said Sri Lanka was hopeful that US investors and businesses will take advantage of and enter the multifaceted development opportunities that will soon be made possible with the opening of the Colombo Port City. He said the Cabinet of Ministers had recently approved the parameters for the drafting of the ‘Colombo Port City Commission Bill’ to meet national requirements and to attract foreign investments. It seeks to create an active environment that can compete with investment hubs such as Dubai, Singapore, and Hong Kong, by attracting investors, entrepreneurs, innovators, companies, financial institutions through a well-structured and competitive legal, tax and regulatory, and dispute resolution mechanism.