Current Trends in Sri Lanka: Making Major Headway in the Quest for Peace and Economic Reconstruction It gives me great pleasure to speak on the topic "The Current Trends in Sri Lanka" at the University of Pittsburgh, a university with a rich history that has evolved over the past 200 years. I am also delighted to note the university's Asian studies program, and the commitment of the Asian Studies Center to foster a better understanding of the East, South and Southeast Asia and the Pacific. I wish to express my sincere appreciation to Dr James V. Maher, Provost, Senior Vice Chancellor for sponsoring this visit and hosting the wonderful luncheon with participation from the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University; Dr William Brustein, Director, University Center for International Studies for sponsoring this event; Professor Richard J Cohen, Associate Director, Center for Asian Studies for coordinating the visit; and Dr. Vijai Singh Vice Chancellor representing Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg for the invitation to address the students and faculty at this prestigious University. It gives me great pleasure to be here today. I look forward to working with the Asian Studies Center to incorporate Sri Lanka in the university curriculum as well as to facilitate educational exchanges between the students of Sri Lanka and the University of Pittsburgh, to promote educational, social and cultural relations between the universities as well as relations between our two countries. Today, I come to you bearing good news on current trends in Sri Lanka from different fronts -political, economic, legal reforms and democratic governance, and tourism. Politically, we are a nation forging and building peace with our Tamil brothers within our borders. For over two decades, ethnic conflict raged in Sri Lanka, ravaged the country, and weakened the economy. But last year, we committed ourselves to lasting peace through political dialogue and economic reconstruction and we achieved a major breakthrough in securing the peace - the Government of Sri Lanka together with the Government of Norway as facilitator, as well as the Governments of the United States, India and Japan, embarked on peace talks with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Over the past 15 months, the Government of Sri Lanka has been pursuing a negotiating strategy with the LTTE to arrive at a peaceful solution. The Government recognizes the need to involve the international community in the quest for a durable and lasting peace. While the role of the Japanese Government has been primarily that of economic development, the U.S. Government has been directly involved in the peace process and reconstruction of the country. On 14th April 2003, Deputy Secretary of State Mr. Richard Armitage hosted a seminar in Washington D.C. to drum up international political and economic support for the peace process. This seminar was attended by high level representatives from the European Union, Canada, France, Germany, the Russian Federation, China, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, India, Japan, Norway, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Thailand and the United Kingdom, an indication of the wide support of the international community led by Norway to achieve a lasting solution to the ethnic conflict. The seminar will be a good segue to the Tokyo Conference on Reconstruction and Development of Sri Lanka to be hosted by the Japanese Government in Tokyo, Japan in June 2003. The meeting in Washington discussed the need for development and reconstruction assistance and how this may assist in consolidating the ceasefire and reinforcing the peace process in Sri Lanka. The reconstruction and development efforts would focus on five areas in need of immediate attention: locating and neutralizing one million landmines scattered in the nation, rebuilding whole towns and villages, providing shelter and simple agricultural equipment to an estimated one million displaced persons, rebuilding and refurbishing schools, and securing jobs for displaced people impacted by the war. This week, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam announced their decision to suspend the peace talks with the Government of Sri Lanka, but added that they were still committed to a negotiated end to the conflict. Understandably, the process of achieving peace will not be an easy task, but will require time, commitment and effort on the part of both parties to reach a lasting solution. The United States is completely backing up Sri Lanka's quest for peace. President Bush deeply understood our situation when he said during his acceptance of my credentials in February: "We both know it takes courage and determination to fight a war. As the peace process in Sri Lanka reaches a stage where difficult issues have to be addressed and real compromises have to be made, it becomes clear that it takes no less courage and no less determination to pursue peace. Let me assure you that the United States wholeheartedly supports Sri Lanka's efforts to transform violence and bloodshed into peace." On good news on the economic front, Sri Lanka was one of the first South Asian countries to introduce free market economic policies in 1977, thus fully integrating itself into the global economy and the international regimes on trade, finance and investment. The Sri Lankan Government introduced liberal trade policies, low tariff levels, privatization, encouragement of foreign direct investment, and the liberalization of capital accounts. All these efforts have been intensified over the years to increase foreign trade flows and capital movement which have resulted in the expansion of health and educational facilities, better housing and greater access to consumer goods. The close ties between the U.S. and Sri Lanka underscores the important economic, trade and investment ties between our two countries. The U.S. is one of Sri Lanka's main export markets and biggest trade partner with exports in 2002 amounting to US $ 1,810 million and imports from the United States totaling US $ 171.9 million. We are committed to deepening and broadening the relationship between our two countries encompassing the diplomatic, political, security, cultural and economic areas to secure greater access to U.S. markets for our exports, access to capital markets and to increase the level of U.S. investment to Sri Lanka. The government is committed to continuing the process of achieving greater market access in developed and developing countries, an important requirement to sustain our development efforts through economic reform and economic development efforts to put the economy on a path of sustained high growth and move the country to become a regional trade hub in South Asia, as well as to attract U.S. investments in sectors such as infrastructure, the Information Communication Technology (ICT) industry, shared services/call centers and back office operations. Recently, the U.S. and Sri Lanka concluded a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) signed between the U.S. and Sri Lanka in July 2002, which provides a structure to discuss bilateral and multilateral issues relating to Sri Lanka and the U.S. Sri Lanka is one of a select number of Asian countries and the only South Asian country with which the U.S. has signed such an agreement. This arrangement provides for expanded economic relations between the US and Sri Lanka and would further accelerate economic reform in our country. This may also be considered the first step towards a possible Free Trade Agreement with the United States. In addition, Sri Lanka has also signed a Free Trade Agreement with India, which has resulted in bilateral trade reaching US $ one billion and Sri Lanka's exports to India increasing from 70.8 million in 2001 to 176.7 million dollars in 2002, thus reducing the balance of trade that favored India. A Free Trade Agreement with Pakistan and also with the countries of the regional grouping BIMST-EC, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Thailand is also underway. As a result, the 18.5 million domestic market of Sri Lanka has expanded into a 1.1 billion market, and investment figures over the past year has indicated a total of $240 million in investments, the highest in ten years. Today, Sri Lanka serves as the economic gateway to a vast regional market in South Asia, especially India. The Sri Lankan Government has embarked on a "Regaining Sri Lanka" program of economic recovery and development that seeks to increase economic growth and reduce conflict-related rural poverty. Plans are also being implemented to strengthen rural infrastructure and improve access of the poor to quality education and health services. The key elements of this program are infrastructure development including road construction and repair and increasing power generation with the aim of making Sri Lanka a transport, logistics and financial hub for the Indian Sub-continent. The program also aims to establish a strong information and communications technology sector, improve education and health care delivery systems, increase agricultural productivity, bolster fisheries and small businesses; environmental preservation; tourism and eco-tourism promotion, and public sector reform. The recent approval of US $ 567 million credit for Sri Lanka by the International Monetary Fund's (IMF) Executive Board is an indication of the organization's support for this effort and for the government's peace negotiations. This also recognizes the need for donor financing to support economic initiatives required to strengthen the peace process and rebuild the nation. Tangible results of this program include a return to economic growth of 3.5 to 4 percent last year and a decline in the rate of inflation from 14 percent to 9.5 percent. Continuing on the good news track, we are continuing efforts for legal reform and strengthening democratic governance. Sri Lanka is one of the oldest practicing democracies with a tradition of democratic governance, independent judiciary and free press. In April 2002, the government repealed the Criminal Defamation Law which was part of the substantive criminal law of Sri Lanka, to develop an environment for a fully liberalized media functioning without fear of repercussions. This is a clear demonstration of the government's commitment to uphold democratic rights and fundamental freedoms. The policies to develop the social infrastructure and social benefits have resulted in a high degree of success in the fields of health, nutrition, education and social welfare and the best socio-economic indicators including life expectancy, infant and maternal mortality, literacy and near universal primary school enrollment in all of Asia. Tourism is one of the major industries in my country, and I would like to share the good news on this sector. Sri Lanka is known as a prime tourist destination throughout the world. The rich cultural and historical heritage of the island offers a fascinating experience to the visitor from archaeological sites dating back to before 247 BC, to unique ecological sites such as the rain forests of Sinharaja, to wildlife parks, captivating tropical beaches and the wide array of water sports. The places of interest include the ancient cities of Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa and Kandy, the rock temple at Dambulla, the Fort at Galle and the citadel kingdom of Sigiriya that have been designated World Heritage sites by UNESCO and the rain forest at Sinharaja, one of the biodiversity hot spots of the world. The national carrier Sri Lankan Airlines has won the award for the best Airline of the year in Central Asia for the third consecutive year. This consolidates our airlines' position in Asia's international airline industry. In the recent past, with the climate of peace, the country has seen an increase in the number of tourist arrivals, an increase of 23.4% for the month of February 2003 in comparison to February 2002 when the peace negotiations commenced. As you can see, there are a lot of positive developments in my country, and there are numerous reasons to feel more hopeful about our future than in many years. When I met President Bush, he told me something I find very encouraging. He said, "Sri Lanka stands out as an island of optimism in this troubled world." It is our pleasure to do so. Recently, the President also noted that, "Sri Lanka has enormous economic potential, which has been impeded by war. Now, with peace on the horizon, with bold economic reforms being put in place, and with a literate society and an educated workforce, Sri Lanka stands on the threshold of prosperity." Current trends in Sri Lanka do indicate that we are on the threshold of prosperity - a prosperity for our people and our children's children and together with all Sri Lankans, and the help and support of the international community and the United States, we are indeed on our way. Thank you very much.
22 April 2003 Dear Friends, With the first anniversary of the permanent Ceasefire Agreement, I wanted to write to you to tell you a little about the Peace Process and what I see for the future of Sri Lanka. It is now over a year since the fighting stopped in our twenty-year war. That should be a cause for celebration as many lives have been saved in the process. I think it important to stress that as yet we do not have peace; nevertheless we have a ceasefire which is giving the parties time to talk and try to resolve their differences. I won't go into the reasons behind the conflict, but I would say that it is the aim of this Government to create a free, fair and equal society where everyone, whatever their religion or ethnicity, can live in peace and prosperity. I should also stress that it is our clear position within the negotiations that we wish to create one nation from what is at present; a divided country. The LTTE understand that and so do most people. However, some people are suggesting otherwise, I hope that if you hear any suggestions to the contrary that you correct them immediately. Nevertheless, we have many challenges along the way. I do not anticipate that peace will come quickly. We have much work to do, to rebuild trust between the two sides in the conflict. That is what we have spent much of our time doing over the past year. Whilst I acknowledge that the Ceasefire Agreement was not a perfect document, it has given us the opportunity to stop the killings and to talk. Had we aimed for a perfect document it could have taken months, even years. Whereas what we have is a working document that starts the process of building understanding on both sides, whilst obliging both sides to do certain trust-building measures. There have been infringements of the ceasefire agreement and that is a cause for concern. What we need to do and are doing, is to tackle each of those infringements in the peace negotiations and to find ways of resolving those problems. Questions such as child conscription and extortion have to be dealt with; and in the recent talks, the LTTE gave an undertaking to deal with these matters with the help of UNICEF. We have spent much time talking about rebuilding our country after the war. In the North and the East we have a shattered economy. We have to resettle nearly one million people, rebuild their homes, remove the mines, and provide schools and hospitals for the people once more. Nor do we intend to neglect the South where poverty is a very serious issue. In the South, we also have to build the infrastructure and create business opportunities. The economy is closely tied into the peace process. For without peace we cannot rebuild our economy; and without a strong economy, peace will take longer to achieve. That is why we have embarked on a programme called "Regaining Sri Lanka" which will put in place the mechanisms to create a strong and prosperous country for the future. I am sure that you, along with many other people, are impatient and want to see improvements happen quickly. However, if we are to build a lasting peace and a prosperous nation we have to plan carefully. The last year has been one of taking a fallow field and preparing it for the crop. Today we are in the process of sowing the seeds, and in the next year or so I am hopeful that you start to see some of the benefits. There is much that I would like to tell you about, but this short letter does not allow that luxury. I am sure that you also have many questions. If you would like to know more about the peace process then please contact the Peace Secretariat (see below for contact details) and they will try to answer your questions. Meanwhile, please be assured that your government is working hard on your behalf to create a peaceful and prosperous country once more. Yours sincerely, Ranil Wickremesinghe Prime Minister P.S. Please show this letter to all your friends and family.
Sri Lanka's Ambassador to the US Devinda R. Subasinghe has urged Sri Lanka's Honorary Consuls in the US, that together with the larger Sri Lankan expatriate community living throughout the country they must engage with their respective State level political and business leaders in order to leverage greater opportunities for Sri Lanka. Emphasizing that that the US system works "from the ground up", he said support for measures beneficial to Sri Lanka " should be lobbied for at the State level, as much as it is in Washington". The Ambassador made this observation when he addressed Sri Lanka's Honorary Consuls in the US, at a workshop held at the Sri Lanka Embassy in Washington D.C. on Saturday April 19th, 2003. Participating in the session with the Diplomatic Staff of the Embassy were Mr. Kevin E. Grady, Honorary Consul, Georgia, Mrs. Kusuma Cooray, Honorary Consul, Hawaii, Dr. Althea Gray, Honorary Consul, New Mexico, Mr. Jay Liyanage, Honorary Consul, New Jersey and Connecticut and Dr. Jeremy R Torsveit, Honorary Consul, Arizona. Ambassador Subasinghe who summed up the positive trends in current Sri Lanka-US relations particularly reflected in the highly successful recent visit to the US by Sri Lanka's Minister for Economic Reform, Science and Technology Milinda Moragoda, noted that the current Strategic Plan of the Embassy had four objectives. First, to deepen and broaden the US-Sri Lanka relationship in the diplomatic, political, economic, security and cultural areas. Second, to elevate the economic cooperation between the two countries to secure greater market access for our exports, access to US capital markets and to increase the level of investment from the US to Sri Lanka, where enabling free trade relations was a priority. Third, to access high levels of World Bank and IMF technical expertise and financial resources. Fourth, to upgrade the service and quality of the Embassy in Washington D.C, the Consulate General office in Los Angeles and the Offices of the Honorary Consuls. He noted that in order to bolster support for Sri Lanka at the Congressional level, the 'Congressional Caucus on Sri Lanka and Sri Lankan Americans' was being re-constituted to reflect the current composition of the House of Representatives and the Senate. Congressman Jerry Weller (Republican- Illinois) had recently assumed the position of Co-Chair of the Caucus and joins Congressman Frank Pallone (Democrat - New Jersey) who was a founding Co-Chair of this body. A "Dear Colleague" note from them encouraging membership in the Sri Lanka Caucus was already being circulated in the Congress and encouraging greater representation in the Caucus must be strongly canvassed at the State level as well. The Ambassador also sought the more active involvement of Sri Lanka's Honorary Consuls in reaching out to the Corporate Community, particularly companies with headquarters in their States, which have business interests in Sri Lanka or the prospect of doing so. Promotion of high-end spenders to avail of the eco-tourism and Ayurveda opportunities in Sri Lanka was also stressed. He assured that the Embassy, as well as the Board of Investment (BOI) and Tourist Board in Sri Lanka would coordinate with the Honorary Consuls more closely in this regard in the future. The Honorary Consuls also detailed their current level of activity and potential areas which could be explored further. The consular assistance provided to Sri Lankans, promotion of trade and tourism as well as Sri Lanka as a film location, showcasing Sri Lankan products and its arts and culture, securing greater opportunities for Sri Lankans in educational institutes in the US and exposure of US scholars to Sri Lanka, raising funds and facilitating medical projects in Sri Lanka and for Sri Lankans in need particularly in the area of open-heart surgery and in promoting closer links at the state level with military institutions that train Sri Lankan armed forces. It was suggested that more could be done to encourage Sri Lankans in the US to spend their vacations in Sri Lanka and to keep their savings in NRFC accounts in Sri Lankan banks where there was a higher interest rate. The possibility of easing the financial burden and minimizing administrative procedures in securing dual-citizenship for Sri Lankan Americans was also discussed. Deputy Chief of Mission Ambassador Janaka Nakkawita, who serves as the focal point in the Embassy with respect to the Honorary Consuls, earlier briefed them on the framework within which they must operate and what was specifically expected of them. Noting that Sri Lanka appreciated that they had offered their services without any remuneration, Ambassador Nakkawita said in future the Embassy would assist them in developing their office premises in a manner that provides a Sri Lankan ambiance. Embassy of Sri Lanka Washington DC USA 21 April 2003

Commends Progress in Peace Negotiations Funds to Support Government’s Economic Program Based On “Regaining Sri Lanka”

The International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) Executive Board approved today, a US$567 million credit equivalent to one hundred percent of quota for Sri Lanka, to support the government’s economic program for 2003-2006. Effective immediately, the Sri Lankan government will receive US$81 million. The IMF also commended the significant progress of the government’s peace negotiations and emphasized the need for donor financing to support economic initiatives to strengthen the peace process. This IMF decision was the first contribution to the country right after the seminar hosted by the U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage at the Department of State, ahead of the Tokyo Conference on Reconstruction and Development of Sri Lanka scheduled for June 9 and 10, 2003. At this seminar, the IMF and other donors supported the peace process and expressed strong support for providing Sri Lanka with increased international financial assistance. Shigemitsu Sugisaki, Deputy Managing Director and Acting Chairman of the Executive Board of the IMF said: “Sri Lanka today stands at a pivotal point in its history. Over the past 20 years, a long civil conflict has beleaguered the country, which not only disrupted economic activity, but also hampered the sustained implementation of economic reforms. The current environment, in which peace negotiations are progressing well and economic activity is picking up, provides an excellent opportunity for Sri Lanka to implement deeper economic reforms and put the economy on a path of sustained high growth.” Sri Lankan Ambassador to the U.S., Devinda Subasinghe welcomed the decision and said: “The decision of the IMF today, the largest ever IMF commitment to Sri Lanka, is a testimony of actual support the international community is giving to Sri Lanka as the government pursues the path of peace and economic growth. This credit, the first commitment of financial support following the U.S. government hosted seminar earlier this week, reinforces the international statements of support for the gains we have achieved by providing the economic foundations for peace.” The credit arrangement, under the IMF’s Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF) seeks to increase economic growth and reduce poverty by supporting the government’s economic program based on “Regaining Sri Lanka”. Sugisaki also praised the government’s efforts towards economic reconstruction and decreasing poverty and pointed out: “The government’s attention to reducing conflict-related and rural poverty is well placed. The implementation of plans to strengthen rural infrastructure and improve access of the poor to quality education and health services are appropriate and necessary steps.” Sugisaki also noted as well the government’s economic reforms: “To fully realize the program’s medium-term objectives for growth and poverty reduction, lasting peace is necessary. The authorities are fully committed to the program and have embarked on difficult reforms, while making strong efforts to preserve public support for the peace process.” He also emphasized the need for donor financing and said: “…continued donor financing is required to support reforms and reconstruction, as well as the momentum of the peace process”. Embassy of Sri Lanka Washington DC USA 18 April 2003
The Hon. Milinda Moragoda, Sri Lankan Minister for Economic Reform, Science and Technology, has completed a highly successful visit to the United States that resulted in several U.S. and international officials expressing strong support for providing Sri Lanka with increased international assistance. “The Minister had a series of meetings with U.S. and international officials in which he consistently heard how much the international community supports the peace process and understands our need for financial support,” said H.E. Devinda R. Subasinghe, Ambassador of Sri Lanka to the United States. “As complicated as the world situation is now with regard to Iraq, it was heartening to see that the world community wants to work together to support Sri Lanka.” The week began with formal IMF and World Bank presentations at the U.S. government hosted Pre-Tokyo Seminar on Sri Lanka at the U.S. State Department, calling for $1.1 billion in annual aid for the next three years to help the country recover from conflict. Minister Moragoda met with United Nations General Secretary Kofi Annan at the U.N. Headquarters in New York; International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director, Mr. Horst Köhler; World Bank President James Wolfensohn; U.S. Commerce Secretary Donald Evans; Ambassador Robert Zoellick, U.S. Trade Representative; U.S. Congressman Jerry Weller, a Republican from Illinois who is co-chair of the Sri Lanka Congressional Caucus; U.S. Congressman Christopher Van Hollen Jr., a Maryland Democrat who lived in Sri Lanka when his father served as the U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka in the early 1970s; U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage; U.S. Treasury Under Secretary (International Affairs) John B. Taylor; U.S. Deputy National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley; Deputy Secretary of Commerce Samuel Bodman; and U.S. Under Secretary of State for Arms Control & International Security Affairs John Bolton, Assistant Secretary of State for Political - Military Affairs Lincoln Bloomfield Jr., Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs Christina Rocca, and Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Peter Rodman. In addition to those meetings, the Minister met Vice President Dick Cheney and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz at a private reception. “During meetings the Minister was repeatedly assured by these officials that they are pleased with the Government’s commitment to the peace process and the progress that has been made,” Ambassador Subasinghe said. “Statements of support were made with respect to Sri Lanka’s economic reform and economic development efforts and the country’s move to become a regional trade hub in South Asia. There were also strong indications that the United States has a favorable view of expanding bilateral trade and economic cooperation with Sri Lanka. Plans were discussed for a special visit of U.S. Congressmen to Sri Lanka sometime this summer.” “It was clear that there is wide respect for the work the Sri Lankan government is doing to maintain peace and rebuild the nation and also a true recognition that the international community must play a vital role in our recovery process.” Minister Moragoda attended the World Bank/IMF Spring Meetings in Washington and played a leadership role in a Seminar on Sri Lanka that was co-hosted by the United States and Sri Lanka as a prelude to June’s Tokyo Conference on Reconstruction and Development in Sri Lanka. In addition, Minister Moragoda visited the U.S. Coast Guard Yard at Baltimore, Maryland to inspect and tour the Coast Guard Cutter “Courageous,” which is scheduled to be transferred to the Sri Lanka Navy. Minister Moragoda also had meetings with H.E. Abdullah Hassan Saif, Minister of Finance & National Economy of Bahrain; the Hon. Susan Whelan, Minister of International Cooperation of Canada; Ms. Agnes von Ardenee, Minister of Development Cooperation of The Netherlands; Mr. Jin Liqun, Vice Minister of China; Mr. Mohamed Khir Bash, Minister of State for Finance & Industries of the United Arab Emirates; Mr. Peter Woicke, Executive Vice President, International Finance Corporation (IFC); Ms. Mieko Nishimizu, Vice President, South Asia Region, The World Bank; and Mr. Motomichi Ikawa, Executive Vice President of the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA). The Sri Lanka delegation consisted of Ambassador Subasinghe; Mr. A S Jayawardena, Governor, Central Bank of Sri Lanka; Mr. Charitha Ratwatte, Secretary, Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Policy Development and Implementation; Mr. R. Paskaralingam, Advisor, Ministry of Policy Development and Implementation; Ambassador Janaka Nakkawita, Deputy Chief of Mission, Embassy of Sri Lanka; Mr. Ananda Atukorala, Advisor, Ministry of Policy Development and Implementation; Mr. Jim Robertson, Advisor, Ministry of Policy Development and Implementation; Mr. Saman Udagedara, Minister (Commercial), Embassy of Sri Lanka; and Ms. Siranthani Gopallawa, First Secretary (Economic), Embassy of Sri Lanka. Embassy of Sri Lanka Washington DC USA 18 April 2003

Meeting Reinforces U.S. - Sri Lanka Economic and Trade Relations

U.S. Commerce Secretary Donald Evans and Deputy Secretary Samuel Bodman met with Sri Lankan Minister for Economic Reform Milinda Moragoda to discuss the progress of the peace process and the pace of economic reforms in Sri Lanka, in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, April 14. Secretary Evans commended the Sri Lankan government for the significant progress achieved in opening the economy, implementing economic reforms, and in the negotiations on the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) between the U.S. and Sri Lanka. The TIFA provides an arrangement for expanded economic relations between the two countries and is usually the first step towards a Free Trade Agreement. U.S. Secretary of Commerce Don Evans pledged the support to the U.S. government to enhance closer commercial and business ties between the two countries. During the meeting, Moragoda emphasized Sri Lanka's desire to strengthen bilateral trade relations between the U.S. and Sri Lanka, and underscored the country's eagerness to attract U.S. investments in sectors such as infrastructure, in the Information Communication Technology (ICT) industry, shared services/call centers and back office operations. In addition, Moragoda stressed the importance of economic development as a critical factor for the success of the Sri Lankan peace process. He also pointed out that the TIFA process would further accelerate economic reform in Sri Lanka and highlighted the government's economic program which includes deregulation, privatization, public sector reforms, among other initiatives. Moragoda emphasized the strategic importance of Sri Lanka as the economic gateway to the Indian subcontinent, especially India. "We would like to help you [Sri Lanka] help yourself by introducing potential trade and investment partners," said U.S. Deputy Secretary Bodman. In reinforcing the relationship between the U.S. and Sri Lanka, Moragoda said: "I am positive that a partnership between the U.S. and Sri Lanka will bring great success to both sides." Talks are also underway to create a U.S. - Sri Lanka Business Council in the United States. Sri Lankan Ambassador Devinda Subasinghe indicated that the Washington Embassy of Sri Lanka is working closely with Tom Donohue, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to organize the Council and to advance the TIFA process. Subasinghe indicated that Sri Lanka is working to expand the membership of the Sri Lankan Congressional Caucus with a trade focus. The meeting was attended by members of the U.S. Department of Commerce including, by Michael Hutchinson, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Textiles, Apparel and Consumer Goods; Molly K. Williamson, Deputy Assistant Secretary Africa and Middle East; and Ariadne Benaissa, International Trade Specialist. Minister Moragoda was assisted by Ambassador Devinda R Subasinghe, Minister (Commerce) Saman Udagedara and First Secretary (Economic) Siranthani Gopallawa. Embassy of Sri Lanka Washington DC USA 17 April 2003