WHITE 3D EMBOSSES CAPITAL LETTERS

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