US wants to explore new opportunities in resurgent Sri Lanka to boost bilateral trade levels to high levels through a new round of initiatives, the Ministry of Industry and Commerce said in a press communiqué yesterday.
"Lot’s of good things are happening here. We want to get a fresh start and we should look for more ways to strengthen US-Sri Lanka bilateral trade," said William Weinstein, the new Deputy Chief of Mission of US Embassy in Colombo on 16 August, as quoted in the statement.
Weinstein was addressing Anura Siriwardene, Secretary, Ministry of Industry and Commerce on 16 August in Colombo during his courtesy call on Secretary Siriwardene. Siriwardene was deputising Rishad Bathiudeen, Minister of Industry & Commerce, who was away from Sri Lanka on a personal visit.
During the successful TIFA talks held in March 2012 in Colombo, Michael J Delaney, Assistant US Trade Representative of South and Central Asia, who led the US trade delegation announced that US is now keen to triple the current bilateral trade levels within a few years. "There’s tremendous potential here. I believe we can easily triple bilateral trade and investment over the next five years (by 2017) as long as we implement the proper policies" Delaney announced in his opening statement TIFA talks in Colombo. In 2011, US became the second largest global trade partner of Sri Lanka (followed by India). Sri Lanka-US bilateral trade value stood at $ 2478.27 Mn in 2011 which was only $ 1,962.20 Mn in 2003. Bilateral trade rose 28% (year on year) from 2010.
Adding more on boosting bilateral trade and FDI, Weinstein said: "We want to support healthy democracies. We want to encourage more US FDIs flows to Sri Lanka as well as to encourage Sri Lankan exports to the US." Weinstein who was a member of the US Senior Foreign Service, had been the Minister Counsellor for Economic Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing from April 2009 to July 2012. Prior to coming to China, serving as the Counsellor for Economic Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv from 2004 to 2008 he handled the economic aspects of the Middle East Peace Process, negotiating the implementation of the Secretary’s Agreement on Movement and Access. Weinstein spent most of his twenty-two year career in the U.S. Foreign Service in Asia, serving in positions with responsibility for bilateral economic and commercial relations in Japan, China, Thailand and Taiwan.
"US industries’ strong involvement in Sri Lanka translates to even stronger bonds between the two countries. The successfully concluded March 2012 TIFA talks were very important for us. Now lot’s of good things are happening here. Now we want to get a fresh start and we should look for more partnering ways to strengthen US-Sri Lanka bilateral trade" Weinstein said.
Apprising Deputy Chief of Mission Weinstein, Secretary Siriwardene said: "On behalf of My Minister Rishad Bathiudeen I warmly welcome you to Sri Lanka. I reiterate Minister Bathiudeen’s 01 July praise for US for closing the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) review on Sri Lanka without any change to Sri Lanka’s GSP trade benefits, which strongly helps our exports, especially in a climate of difficult global trade. Thanks to the leadership of H.E. the President Mahinda Rajapaksa, we have witnessed 8.3% GDP growth in 2011. We promise fullest cooperation and support for US trade initiatives in Sri Lanka as well as for a fresh start and as Minister Bathiudeen stressed previously, we invite investors to our industries and export oriented manufacturing. In addition to our apparels, Pure Ceylon Tea, Pure Ceylon Cinnamon and our rubber products have been well received in the US. Sri Lankan tyres account for 20% of solid tyre market in the US."
Also referred to in the discussion was the Minister’s initiative to strengthen the regional chambers of commerce networks, and reference was made to a meeting held with a VEGA/USAID specialist who recently visited the Districts for four weeks in order to make a preliminary field assessment. It was stressed that Minister Bathiudeen would meet with representatives from key regional Chambers of Commerce and business entrepreneurs with officials of Department of Commerce and other key departments in this regard. It was also informed that official US approval has now been granted to Sri Lanka War Widows Livelihood Development Project through the Economic Section of the US Embassy where pilots will be conducted in Mannar and Mullaitivu with the support of the textile unit of the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, Department of Commerce and the Export Development Board. In 2011, US became the second largest global trade partner of Sri Lanka (followed by India). Sri Lanka-US bilateral trade value stood at $ 2478.27 Mn in 2011 which was only $ 1,962.20 Mn in 2003. Bilateral trade rose 28% (year on year) from 2010. According to the Department of Commerce of Sri Lanka, apparel products remain the largest single Sri Lankan export item to the US. Of Sri Lanka’s $ 4039 Mn apparel exports to the world in 2011, 39.36% ($ 1590 Mn) was directly absorbed by the US market, rising from $ 1297.5 Mn in 2009. Another Sri Lankan product-line in demand in the US market is the ‘rubber based product’ category. In 2011, the total value of imports that entered the United States duty-free under GSP was $18.5 billion. U.S. imports from Sri Lanka under GSP totalled $135 Mn in 2011 and include tires, activated carbon, rubber gloves, plastic products, and kitchenware.