Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Asia of the US Department of Commerce, Mr. Rich Steffens has appreciated the recent encouragement provided by Sri Lanka to successfully attract US investment to Sri Lanka. Mr. Steffens said the US Department of Commerce will continue to be interested in projects in the Port and other places throughout Sri Lanka, and planned to organize periodic webinars where they could brief US companies on the investment opportunities in Sri Lanka.
Mr. Steffens made these observations during a farewell zoom meeting outgoing Ambassador of Sri Lanka to the US Ravinatha Aryasinha had with him on Wednesday (8 September 2021). He thanked the Ambassador for his continued dialogue with the US economic agencies in Washington D.C. through a difficult period, and said he appreciated his attention to encourage global competition on infrastructure projects and in attracting investments from all countries to Sri Lanka.
Earlier Ambassador Aryasinha, who noted that despite strong bilateral relations since independence US investment was relatively low, hoped that the success shown by the US LNG power generation company New Fortress Energy in investing in Sri Lanka this year, would encourage other US companies to also compete and benefit from Sri Lanka’s current large scale economic development projects, particularly in the context of the Port City Colombo Development Project.
Ambassador Aryasinha on 10 September also met with Mr. Matt Murray, Actg. Asst. Secretary of the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs of the US Department of State and discussed about the characterization of Sri Lanka in the ‘Investment Climate Statement’ issued by the US State Department and the ‘Ease of Doing Business Index’ of the World Bank, investments in the Port City Colombo Development Project, and attracting US companies to Sri Lanka under ‘Tradeshifts’.
Mr. Murray observed that the investment climate is a snap shot of a country's investment environment. He appreciated Sri Lanka’s effort to overcome difficulties faced by the economy and said their aspiration is to have a dialogue with Sri Lanka and address these issues, and subsequently they could share the outcome with the US companies interested in investing in Sri Lanka.
Earlier on 3 September, Ambassador Aryasinha presided over a virtual meeting between the US-based Overseas Sri Lankans Network (OSL) ‘economic cluster’ and Sri Lanka-based Government Ministries/agencies, as well as the heads of trade chamber partners doing business with the USA. During this meeting Ambassador Aryasinha observed that since assuming duties in December 2020, with the support of the Minister (Commercial) Sumeda Ponnamperuma, the Mission had set out several goals in moving the economic agenda forward and to more pro-actively engage with the Colombo based economic agencies, as well as the ‘economic cluster’ of the OSL Network set up in January 2021. This had helped in building up connections between business persons in the US and Sri Lanka with turf experience, and contributing to navigating in a particularly challenging time where traditional business patterns had dramatically changed and much business was done online. He saw the Embassy initiative recently approved by the EDB to set up an online platform and a warehouse facility to market apparel, initially in the Greater New York area, subsequently to be expanded to other products and to be also replicated in the West coast, as a crucial response in this regard. While detailing the steps taken at the policy level to expand the market access to Sri Lankan products in the USA, he noted that full benefit from the Sri Lanka- US trade relationship could be had only when there is sufficient diversification of the export basket to the US, which presently was only 25% non-apparel products, that could benefit from the US GSP. He said the re-activation of the New York based Sri Lanka Chamber of Commerce which is affiliated to the US Chamber of Commerce, which had been inactive since 2013, provided an opportunity for the initiatives made through Government to Government efforts policy wise, to be tangibly converted in the business arena.
Mr. P.M. Amza, Additional Secretary (Economic Affairs) Foreign Ministry, Mr. Sanjaya Mohottala, Chairman BOI,Ms. Sammika Wijesiinha, DG Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority, Mr. Suresh de Mel, Chairman, EDB, Mr. Manjula de Silva, Secretary General & CEO of the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, Mr. Bandula Dissanayake, Secretary General & CEO, National Chamber of Commerce, Mr. Shiham Marikkar, Secretary General & CEO, National Chamber of Exporters, Mr. Ashique M. Ali, Vice Chairman & Mr. Shiraz Lye, Director, SLASSCOM, Mr. Tuly Cooray, Secretary General, Joint Apparel Association Forum (JAAF), Mr. Hemantha Perera, Secretary General, Sri Lanka Chamber of Garment Exporters and Mr. Sanji de Silva, President & Dr. Asanka Ratnayake, Immediate Past President of the Sri Lanka – USA Business Council and Mr. Dilan Ariyawansa, President of the USA – Sri Lanka Chamber of Commerce in New York participated in the meeting.
The participating officials appreciated the connections made for them by the Embassy in the recent period and assured that they will continue with these initiatives.
Mr. Sumedha Ponnamperuma, Minister (Commercial), Mr. Piyumal Weerasinghe, Third Secretary and Mr. Himash Fernando, Commercial Officer of the Embassy were associated with the Ambassador during this meeting.