The CEO and Managing Director of Ansell, Harry Boon, told US Business Leaders on Tuesday, that with the expectation of an early settlement to the ethnic conflict, Sri Lanka would be a profitable place to invest. Speaking on the theme, “The experience of a US investor in Sri Lanka”, representing Ansell, one of the world’s leading producers of rubber gloves for medical and industrial hand protection, whose headquarters have been relocated from Australia to New Jersey, Mr. Boon said, his company that had commenced operations in Sri Lanka since the late 1980’s, had lost only three days’ production in this entire period. Ansell has investments of over 50 Million $ in Sri Lanka and provides direct employment to 1800 and indirect employment to over 5000 persons.
Mr. Boon made this observation when he addressed an Investment Roundtable organized by the US Chamber of Commerce titled “ Sri Lanka- Gateway to South Asia”, held as an integral part of the Second Meeting of the Joint Council established under the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA), of which the formal meeting was held in Washington D.C. on March 25th, 2003. The Roundtable hosted by Willard A. Workman, Senior Vice President, International Affairs, of the US Chamber of Commerce and was attended by Business Leaders with current and prospective trade and investment connections with Sri Lanka. These included the Centennial Group, General Electric Co, Caterpillar Power Ventures, American International Group (AIG), Lockheed Martin, Ansell Limited, Limited Brands, Sara Lee Branded Apparel, Pillsbury Winthrop LLP, the US EXIM Bank, US government officials from the Department of Commerce and the US Trade Representative’s Office, and representatives of the US Chamber of Commerce. The Sri Lankan Business sector was represented by Malik Samarawickrama, Chairman, M&N Centre and Sunil Wijesinghe, Managing Director, Bartleet & Company Ltd.
Addressing the Investment Roundtable, Deputy US Trade Representative Jon Huntsman emphasized that “the US had great confidence in Sri Lanka, and was taking its economic relations with the country very seriously”. He said this was reflected in the decision taken by the US Government in July 2002 to sign the only Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) the US had signed with a South Asian country, with Sri Lanka, during Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s visit to Washington D.C. Sri Lanka is also one of a select number of Asian countries with which the US has signed such agreements. Noting that the TIFA had so far worked well, Ambassador Huntsman said “the two countries should work on both a problem solving track as well as an opportunity track, to derive the full benefits of the framework”. He also sought feedback from business leaders involved in Sri Lanka in order to strengthen the TIFA process aimed at increasing trade between the two countries and attracting US investment to Sri Lanka.
Minister of Enterprise Development, Industrial Policy, Investment Promotion & Constitutional Affairs Prof. G.L. Peiris addressing the gathering, noted that when he had “addressed the US Chamber two years ago, the participants had been only one third of that present on this occasion,” and said “the increased interest by U.S. Business Leaders augers well for Sri Lanka.” The Minister said anyone visiting Sri Lanka today would be struck by “the mood of expectancy in the island”, as after two decades of conflict “ for 15 months the country had enjoyed the benefits of peace and stability and there was the feeling that there was light at the end of the tunnel”. Prof. Peiris said “the single factor that stood in the way of Sri Lanka deriving the full benefits from having led the way during the administration of President J.R. Jayewardene in South Asia as a liberalized economy since 1977, was now being rectified”.
Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister Ravi Karunanayake in his address drew attention to “the improvement that had been manifest in the economic indicators of the country, since the ceasefire took effect in February 2002.” He said “Sri Lanka had since seen $240 million in investments, which was the highest in ten years.” The Minister added that those seeking to invest in Sri Lanka should be conscious that Sri Lanka today serves as a spring-board to a vast regional market in South Asia. The 18.5 million domestic market of Sri Lanka expanded into a 1.1 billion market, on account of the Free Trade Agreement that was operative between Sri Lanka and India, and was being negotiated between Sri Lanka and Pakistan. The Minister appealed to US investors to help Sri Lanka fortify its on-going peace process by investing in the country.
BOI Chairman Arjunna Mahendran made an impressive presentation titled “Profit in Paradise” that highlighted the comparative advantages an investor could expect when investing in Sri Lanka. He said the business sector had played a significant part in inducing the peace process, and that the current peace had a positive impact on the economic fundamentals of the country.
Managing Director, South Asian Affairs of the US Chamber of Commerce Herbert J. Davis, who concluded the meeting, urged that the current initiative within the US-Sri Lanka TIFA be carried forward into establishing a U.S. - Sri Lanka Business Council.
Embassy of Sri Lanka
26 March 2003
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Deputy US Trade Representative Jon Huntsman said Tuesday that "the US had great confidence in Sri Lanka, and was taking its economic relations with the country very seriously". Ambassador Huntsman made this observations when he addressed an Investment Roundtable hosted by the US Chamber of Commerce, on the theme " Sri Lanka- Gateway to South Asia", held as an integral part of the Second Meeting of the Joint Council established under the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA). The Roundtable was attended by Business Leaders from over 30 companies with current and prospective trade and investment connections with Sri Lanka, officials of the US Government and of the US Chamber of Commerce.
At the formal talks of the Joint Council held at the White House Conference Center in Washington D.C., Ambassador Huntsman who led the US delegation expressed satisfaction with the progress made so far under the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) between the US and Sri Lanka. He noted that within a matter of eight months since its establishment, the Joint Council had met twice, which is testimony to the importance both parties attach to bi-lateral trade and economic relations. He said the US regards Sri Lanka as a country with vast potential for economic development in South Asia. He emphasized the need to generate greater understanding among the US business community of the considerable trade and investment expansion opportunities in Sri Lanka and stressed the importance of evolving confidence building and problem solving mechanisms under the Joint Council to facilitate this process.
The TIFA agreement signed during Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe's visit to the White House in July, 2002, provides a framework to discuss bi-lateral and multi-lateral issues relating to Sri Lanka and the US. The Sri Lanka delegation to the talks were led by Minister of Enterprise Development, Industrial Policy, Investment Promotion & Constitutional Affairs Prof. G.L. Peiris and Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister Ravi Karunanayake. The Sri Lanka delegation included Sri Lanka's Ambassador to the US Devinda R. Subasinghe, Secretary Ministry of Commerce and Consumer Affairs Harsha Wicramasinghe and Chairman, Board of Investment (BOI) Arjunna Mahendran, Sri Lanka's Permanent Representative to WTO, Geneva K.J.Weerasinghe, Chairman United National Party, Mr. Malik Samarawicrema, Minister (Commercial) Saman Udagedara and First Secretary (Economic) Siro Gopallawa of the Embassy of Sri Lanka.
Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister Ravi Karunanayake, in his opening remarks stressed the urgent need to "commercialize peace" in Sri Lanka and said as the country moves towards finding a lasting solution to the ethnic conflict, that it was also focusing on confidence building mechanisms during this learning curve. The Minister said Sri Lanka needed to diversify the economy and the Prime Minister and the Government of Sri Lanka was focusing on this issue. He emphasized that Sri Lanka is committed to moving the TIFA to further expand bilateral trade and gain greater market access to the US.
Prof. G.L. Peiris, who joined the delegation after having led the Sri Lanka Government delegation to the 6th session of the Sri Lanka Peace Talks with the LTTE in Hakone, Japan, briefed the meeting on the latest developments concerning the peace process. He noted that during the past fifteen months of the cease fire agreement, the country had enjoyed considerable achievement in the areas of tourism, foreign direct investment and re-integration & interaction of trade between the north & south of the island after almost two decades of conflict. He said prospects for permanent peace are greater than ever before.
The two delegations agreed to explore the possibility of having trade missions visit their respective countries and to further strengthen enforcing and implementation while amending the law to incorporate new developments in these areas. They will also engage in further bilateral discussions at the officials level with respect to moving forward with the WTO's Doha Development Agenda.
It was agreed to continue the TIFA process with a meeting in Colombo and a subsequent meeting in Washington D.C. during the course of this year, highlighting the importance and potential of the US-Sri Lanka trade and investment relationship.
Embassy of Sri Lanka
25 March 2003
The Second Meeting of the Joint Council established under the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) will be held in Washington D.C. on March 25th, 2003. This agreement signed during Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s visit to the White House in July, 2002, provides a framework to discuss bi-lateral and multi-lateral issues relating to Sri Lanka and the US.
The Sri Lanka delegation for the talks will be co-chaired by Prof. G.L.Peiris, Minister of Enterprise Development, Industrial Policy, Investment Promotion & Constitutional Affairs and Ravi Karunanayake, Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, while Ambassador Jon Hunstman, US Deputy Trade Representative will lead the US delegation. Business leaders representing the apparel, information and communication technology sectors will accompany the delegation.
Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to the U.S. Devinda R. Subasinghe has said, “the forthcoming meeting will review the progress made in the recently concluded 6th session of the Sri Lanka Peace Talks, as well as the status of trade and investment relations between Sri Lanka and the US and explore proposals for increased trade and foreign investment.” The meeting will also discuss “modalities to ensure a successful outcome of the WTO’s ‘Doha Development Agenda’.”
Attending the first meeting of the Joint Council in Colombo in November 2002, US Deputy Trade Representative, Jon M. Huntsman had noted that the TIFA arrangement is the cornerstone in the trade and economic relations between the two countries and that the US had signed such agreements with select countries and the choice of Sri Lanka from the South Asian region for a TIFA, shows the significance the US attached to Sri Lanka as a business partner. Trade between the two countries currently stands at approximately 2.5 billion dollars and heavily favors Sri Lanka. Apparel accounts for more than three quarters of Sri Lanka's exports to the US while imports from the US includes wheat, electrical machinery and mechanical machinery. US Investment in Sri Lanka is approximately $500 million.
During their visit the two Ministers will meet with US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and US Assistant Secretary of State Christina Rocca. At the US Chamber of Commerce, they will also participate in an Investment Roundtable titled “ Sri Lanka; The Gateway to South Asia” and also meet with Trade Association leaders.
Minister Peiris who will be arriving in Washington D.C., after having led the Sri Lanka Government delegation to the 6th session of the Sri Lanka Peace Talks with the LTTE in Hakone, Japan, will also address diplomats, US government officials, World Bank and IMF representatives, congressional staffers, academics and NGO representatives, at an event hosted by the US Institute of Peace (USIP) and Chaired by Dr. Chester Crocker, Chairman of the USIP Board.
Embassy of Sri Lanka
21 March 2003
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Ms Christina Rocca on Thursday praised the commitment shown in moving forward the Sri Lanka peace process and said the Sri Lanka government and the LTTE "have made significant progress toward a political solution that protects the dignity and security of all Sri Lankans and preserves that country's unity". She added that the LTTE had 'renounced Tamil Eelam" but that they would need to "renounce violence in word and deed" in order to be removed from the US list of proscribed terrorist organisations. She noted that the organization was still acquiring weapons. She re-iterated that the US was committed to helping the Government of Sri Lanka achieve a peace settlement not only for the benefit of Sri Lanka, but also to show that peace can be achieved through negotiations.
Assistant Secretary Rocca made these observations when she testified at a hearing of the House of Representatives International Relations Committee's Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, held on March 20th, 2003. This was in response to a question by Representative Brad Sherman ( Democrat- California), who asked whether "as peace takes hold" there was a possibility that the LTTE would be removed from the list of proscribed terrorist organizations, in particular, whether the "prior behavior" would become an issue.
The hearing on "The US and South Asia: Challenges and Opportunities for American Policy" was chaired by Representative James A. Leach (Republican-Iowa), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific. Chairman Leach in his opening statement referred to South Asia as a region that has "sharply risen in prominence for American policymakers in the aftermath of the events of September 11" and stated that "although South Asia remains one of the most volatile regions, the United States can point to a number of diplomatic achievements in recent years." Commenting on Sri Lanka, Chairman Leach observed that " in Sri Lanka, Deputy Secretary of State Armitage has been personally engaged in lending US support to the on-going cease-fire and hopeful peace process". Responding to a question posed by the Chairman of the Sub-committee, on whether the Peace Corps would return to Sri Lanka, Ms Rocca replied that a security assessment team from the Peace Corps had already returned from an initial visit to Sri Lanka.
Assistant Administrator of the USAID's Bureau for Asia and the Near East Wendy J. Chamberlin, who also testified before the sub-committee described Sri Lanka as " a success story", and "a clearly defined example of putting the Administration's policies of accountable foreign aid to work in the region". Noting that "until last year, Sri Lanka was on the road to becoming a non-presence post," she said, "we have reversed those staffing decisions and requested additional resources in the financial year 2004 in recognition that, at least, they are on the right track". She pointed out that "USAID's humanitarian assistance and longer-term economic reforms are designed to ensure the 'peace dividend' is distributed equitably among the peoples of Sri Lanka." US economic aid to Sri Lanka has increased from $3.69 million in 2001 to $19.5 million requested for 2004.
Embassy of Sri Lanka
21 March 2003
U.S. President George W. Bush has said, "The United States has been following the peace process in Sri Lanka with great interest" and that "living in trying times, Sri Lanka stands out as an island of optimism in this troubled world."
These observations were made by President Bush at the formal credential presentation ceremony of Sri Lanka's Ambassador to the US, Devinda R. Subasinghe, which was held in the Oval Office of the White House, on Wednesday (26th February, 2003) afternoon.
Earlier at his meeting with the U.S.President, Ambassador Subasinghe thanked President Bush for the steadfast support given to Sri Lanka, as the country was striving to resolve its problems through peaceful means. The President assured the Ambassador that the United States will continue to support Sri Lanka as a friend.
In formal statements that were exchanged, President Bush, noting that "sadly, both of our countries have experienced terrorism first-hand", said "The United States appreciates Sri Lanka's encouraging stance on the war against terror and its supportive posture in the current crisis on Iraq." "America will continue to count on your support in the days ahead," the President said.
"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." Appreciating that Sri Lanka faces difficult challenges ahead, President Bush said, " reconstruction and reintegration after 20 years of civil war will not be accomplished easily or without cost. Sri Lanka has a history of democracy and a resiliency in its economy that will lend strength to your endeavors. In addition, Sri Lanka has the good will of the international community. The United States is increasing its economic assistance in support of the peace process, and is encouraging other nations to do the same." President Bush added 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."
In his statement, Ambassador Subasinghe observed that "the on-going Peace Process has clearly demonstrated that despite difficulties that may arise from time to time, the process has been placed on an irreversible path. Sri Lanka's economic development strategy as envisioned and articulated under the title 'Regaining Sri Lanka', focused on the clear link between establishing a lasting peace and creating market conditions conducive to economic growth and entrepreneurship in order to regain and maintain economic opportunities lost as a result of the continuing conflict." The Ambassador noted that "the United States continues to be the major trading partner of Sri Lanka accounting for 41% of Sri Lanka's total exports. Foreign direct investment from the US has steadily increased with an estimated investment of US$ 500 million. For decades Sri Lanka has been a recipient of development assistance from the U.S. Educational and training opportunities for Sri Lankans in the US has considerably contributed to Sri Lanka's growth and development. In more recent years, the two countries have also developed a beneficial relationship in military and security cooperation."
Ambassador Subasinghe said during his tenure he would "endeavor to build upon the vast fund of goodwill and understanding which exists between the two countries and to further develop the longstanding relationship, so as to promote the efforts of the Government of Sri Lanka to regain peace and prosperity for the people of Sri Lanka."
President Bush expressed the hope that "Ambassador Subasinghe's tenure in Washington will be marked by increasing ties between the US and Sri Lanka, in trade and commerce, as well as in human and cultural exchanges."
Embassy of Sri Lanka
26 February 2003