PRESIDENT BUSH EXPRESSES CONFIDENCE IN THE
SRI LANKAN PRIME MINISTER'S LEADERSHIP AND COMMITMENT TO PEACE
Key Technology and Economic development MOUs
signed during visit
Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on Wednesday concluded
a 3 day visit to the US, receiving strong support from President
Bush for his leadership and his commitment to peace.
President George W. Bush welcomes Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe
Sri Lanka to the Oval Office Wednesday, November 5, 2003.
White House Spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters shortly
after the White House meeting "The President made it very
clear that the United States supports the Prime Minister's efforts,
and the President reaffirmed our strong support for the Peace
Process and the democratic institutions that are in place in Sri
Lanka." The spokesman added that the two leaders also discussed
the importance of trade. " The President thanked the Prime
Minister for the positive role Sri Lanka played in Cancun",
and "both leaders expressed their commitment to free trade
and moving forward on the Doha talks", Mr. McClellan added.
Earlier the Prime Minister held a series of meetings with senior
administration officials. Meeting with Acting Secretary of State
Richard Armitage on Monday, the Prime Minister discussed the economic
situation in Sri Lanka, and developments in the peace process
particularly in the light of the proposals put forward by the
LTTE. Speaking to the media following the meeting, Mr. Armitage,
while noting that "the LTTE proposals were significant in
that this was the first time that such a comprehensive delineation
has been made by the LTTE and may form the basis for a way forward,"
added that "it does go outside the bounds of what was envisioned
in Oslo and in Tokyo where we talked about a federation, democratic
society, respect for human rights and territorial integrity".
"We need to come back to the boundaries envisioned at Oslo",
Mr. Armitage said.
Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, who met the Prime
Minister at the Pentagon, assured continued US support to Sri
Lanka and discussed elevating defense and security cooperation.
Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz escorts Prime Minister
Ranil Wickremesinghe of Sri Lanka (left)
into the Pentagon on Nov. 3, 2003. The leaders are meeting to
discuss defense issues
of mutual interest. DoD photograph by Helene C. Stikkel
At a meeting with US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick , the
discussion centred on measures aimed at moving the Trade and Investment
Framework Agreement (TIFA) towards a free trade agreement. Meeting
Deputy Secretary of Commerce Sam Bodman, the Prime Minister said
his government sought to use trade as a tool for economic reform.
The Prime Minister also met with the Director of the Peace Corps
Gaddi Vasquez, to discuss the re-starting of Peace Corps operations
in Sri Lanka later next year. The programme will focus on Information
Technology and entrepreneurship training.
The Prime Minister met with key Congressional leaders to discuss
bilateral political, trade and economic issues and to secure their
support for the early commencement of negotiations for a free
trade agreement between the US and Sri Lanka. He addressed a meeting
of the House Committee on Ways and Means, which has jurisdiction
over all trade agreements. Rep. William Thomas (R-CA), the Chairman
of the Committee hosted the meeting, which was attended by members
of the Committee including Rep. Phillip Crane (R-IL), Chairman
of the Trade Sub -Committee, Rep. Mac Collins (R-GA), Rep. Jerry
Weller (R-IL), Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-NY), Ranking Member of
the House Ways and Means Committee and Rep. Sander M. Levin (D-MI),
Ranking Member of Trade Sub-Committee. The Prime Minister also
had separate meetings with Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), Chairman of
the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation,
Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-IN), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations
Committee, Sen. Joseph Biden (D-DE), Ranking Member of the Senate
Foreign Relations Committee and Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) Ranking
Member of the Senate Finance Committee.
The Prime Minister had discussions with the lawmakers on bilateral
trade and economic cooperation that would advance economic development
through bilateral trade liberalization. He described how Sri Lanka,
a trade dependent economy, has no alternative but to liberalize
its trade and integrate with the world economy and the vision
of the government to offer Sri Lanka as a "value addition
platform" and the gateway to South Asia.
The Prime Minister's visit resulted in a number of agreements
to further business opportunities in the knowledge economy sectors
such as biotechnology, Information and Communication Technology.
A Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of Sri Lanka
and the US Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) which enables
funding for technical assistance, feasibility studies, training,
orientation visits and business workshops with particular attention
to the areas of aviation, biotechnology and information and communication
technology, was signed by Foreign Minister Tyronne Fernando.
Minister of Economic Reform, Science and Technology Milinda Moragoda
signed documents with the Biotechonomy Group for a study
on the development of the biotechnology sector in Sri Lanka and
a Memorandum of Understanding with the Microsoft Corporation
to provide support for the E-Sri Lanka initiative. The MOU will
provide a multi million dollar investment from Microsoft in technology,
trading, educational assistance and infrastructure support over
a five year period. Microsoft will also be setting up a subsidiary
in Sri Lanka by the end of 2003.
Accompanied by US Congressman Chris Van Hollen Jr.(D-MD), Prime
Minister Wickremesinghe also visited the "Bio- Tech Corridor"
in Rockville, Maryland. He visited the Human Genome Sciences (HGS)
offices and laboratories located in the BioTech Corridor in Rockville,
Maryland. The Congressman, in whose Congressional district the
facility is located, is also the son of Ambassador Christopher
Van Hollen who had previously served as US Ambassador in Sri Lanka.
HGS is a pioneer in genomics for the discovery and the development
of new pharmaceutical products including the clinical development
of drugs to treat such diseases as cancer, rheumatoid arthritis,
and hepatitis C. The Prime Minister also addressed a round table
discussion at the American Enterprise Institute, which was attended
by leading policy analysts.
Oval Office picture gallery
Embassy of Sri Lanka
06 November 2003