A country session dedicated to the USA was held on 9 June 2021 with the participation of sixty four US investors in virtual format, during the 2021 Invest Sri Lanka Forum, organized by the Board of Investment, the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce and the Colombo Stock Exchange and held last week.
Opening the session, Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to the USA Ravinatha Aryasinha noted that the US is presently the 10th largest investor in Sri Lanka with 133 projects that account for nearly 500 million US dollars in investments. Given that the US is the second largest investor in the world with FDI outflows amounting to 125 billion dollars in 2019, the volume of US investment in Sri Lanka, in comparison to other countries, has been modest. He said, the US being Sri Lanka's largest export destination accounting for 26% of exports worth 2.5 Billion US dollars in 2020, there is always the potential for greater US investment, particularly in some sectors with buy-back arrangements.
The Ambassador observed that recently, the BOI had prioritized the ICT/BPO, education, infrastructure, tourism and leisure, agriculture, food processing, electrical and electronic products, light engineering, healthcare, and pharmaceuticals as the major sectors that have the potential to draw US investments. Noting that at present important US flagship companies including New Fortress Energy is seeking to invest in Sri Lanka, he said the forthcoming opportunity provided by the development of the Colombo Port City, where there will be a level playing field and investors will enjoy enhanced tax holidays, augers well in the effort to increase the potential for US investment in Sri Lanka. Referring to the recent ‘Trade Shifts’ Sectoral Study released by the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham), he observed that it has been forecasted that US Dollars 150 billion worth of business will be shifting over the next five years, and Sri Lanka should target at attracting a share of that.
Ambassador Aryasinha said, in recent months, rather than merely responding to each investor seeking assistance, on the basis of the priority areas identified, the Embassy has sought to
pro-actively seek out those who had the potential to invest in Sri Lanka. The ‘Overseas Sri Lankans Network’ launched in January 2021 had identified ‘economic empowerment’ as one of three pillars of focus (the others being Political Advocacy and Socio-Cultural engagement) and had facilitated Sri Lankan Americans, as well as other Americans who had the potential to invest and do business with Sri Lanka. Those identified had been connected through zoom conferences with the BOI, the EDB, the Tourism Promotion Bureau, as well as with the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham), National Chamber of Exporters (NCE) of Sri Lanka, SLASSCOM, JAAF and the Sri Lankan Chamber of Garment Exports. These organizations and others have also been linked to the US-Sri Lanka Business Council affiliated to the US Chamber of Commerce which has been revived and is supporting in leveraging Sri Lanka’s economic interests in the USA.
In the trade and tourism sectors while tangible results have already been seen, the Ambassador was hopeful that the greater awareness created of the opportunities to invest, would lead to an increase in US investment as well. He also called on Sri Lankans and others who want to invest, but who do not have the time to nurture those investments, to engage through the opportunities afforded with the Securities and Stock Exchange, so that they could engage the economy of Sri Lanka.
Chargé d'affaires of the US Embassy in Colombo Martin Kelly delivered the keynote address, while Ms. Vrai Raymond, General Manager of AmCham provided an update on the ‘Macroeconomics of Sri Lanka’. In the panel discussion that followed moderated by
Dr. Asanka Rathnayake, President, Sri Lanka – USA Business Council of the CCC and Director, Hayleys Advantis Ltd, several US investment success stories were showcased. Mr. Mahesh Fernando, General Manager of Hilton Colombo highlighted the expansions and investments currently ongoing in Sri Lanka, Mr. Lakshitha Dharmawansha, General Manager of Avery Dennison Lanka (Pvt) Ltd. detailed the company expansion over 20 years from apparel industry to footwear and gloves. Mr. Sanjaya Sandarathna, Director Marketing of American & Efird Lanka (Pvt) Ltd. highlighted the high level of skilled workforce in the apparel industry and the importance of Sri Lanka as an ethical business location, which had helped their company grow.
Mr. Sumedha Ponnamperuma, Minister (Commerce) and Mr. Piyumal Weerasinghe, Third Secretary, were associated with the Ambassador during the Sri Lanka session.