Daily News (Colombo)
28 June 2004
Jeyaraj holds discussions on moving forward Sri Lanka-US trade and investment
Minister of Trade and Commerce and Consumer Affairs, Jeyaraj Fernandopulle concluded his four day visit to the US moving forward the bilateral trade and investment agenda.
He met with his commerce counterpart Ted Kassinger, Deputy Secretary of commerce (acting for Secretary of Commerce who is on an official visit to China) and Representative Jerry Weller, a key congressional ally of Sri Lanka and attended a meeting at the International Institute for Economics (IIE), a Washington based trade think tank last Tuesday.
At the meeting with Kassinger, Minister Fernandopoulle emphasised that Sri Lanka would continue to maintain the momentum gathered thus far in the US-Sri Lanka trade and investment relations and the new government will continue to engage with the US to deepen and broaden the trade and economic relationship.
The development of the rural sector and upliftment of living standards of the people will receive special attention of the new government. In this regard the government will continue the poverty alleviation programme - "Samurdhi Scheme" to generate self-employment and provide micro financing to needy people.
The government will also encourage foreign direct investment into Sri Lanka which is strategically located between the East and West as a gateway to the vast Indian market. The Sri Lanka-India Free Trade Agreement has opened up many avenues for foreign investment in Sri Lanka.
Minister Fernandopulle also explained that Sri Lanka had revised the country’s intellectual Property Rights legislation which will be enforced a strictly to protect intellectual property rights.
Kassinger welcomed the strict enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights and said that it would lead to increase investment in Sri Lanka. It was not that Microsoft and Oracle have opened business offices in Sri Lanka.
Discussing government procurement, the Minister informed him that the new government ensure a fair and transparent government procurement process in Sri Lanka.
Minister Fernandopulle also noted that Sri Lanka was working towards signing the WTO Information Technology Agreement.
He added that Sri Lanka as a trade dependent economy will continue to work constructively with the international community to ensure the successful conclusion of the Doha Development Agenda.
The Minister also discussed the implications to Sri Lanka arising from the abolition of textile quotas in 2005.
Members of the Sri Lanka business delegation who participated in the meeting highlighted their adverse experience with regard to specific textile quota categories that have already been phased out. Kassinger explained that the US was aware of the painful adjustment that the abolition of quotas involved and pointed out the necessity for Sri Lanka to diversify its export base.
The business delegation describing the strategic partnerships they have formed with US companies described the conducive business environment in Sri Lanka for foreign investors which includes transparent investment laws, sophisticated legal and regulatory framework, generous fiscal intensives, free transfer of fees, profits, capital earnings, a highly trainable labour force, high literacy ratio, efficient port facilities etc.
The Sri Lanka business delegation also informed that the Joint Apparel Associations Forum is planning a visit to North Carolina to meet with the textile fabric manufacturers to explore the possibility of increasing imports from US manufacturers.
In his meeting with Representative Jerry Weller (Republican-Illinois) who is also the co-chair of the Sri Lanka Congressional Caucus of the 108th Congress and a ranking member of the House Ways and Means Committee responsible for trade matters.
Minister Fernandopulle discussed bilateral trade and economic matters such as the trade and economic policies of the new government, Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) process and the Peace Process.
Fernandopulle informed representative Weller that the purpose of his visit as the Trade and Commerce Minister of the new government was to establish contacts with the US administration, Congress and the business community to take forward the trade agenda and work towards concluding a FTA with the US.
The Minister further informed that this meeting with the USTR, Department of Commerce and the US-Sri Lanka Working Group have been very fruitful. He added that the TIFA process will continue to address bilateral trade and investment issues and to build confidence between the two countries towards the eventual conclusion of a Free Trade Agreement with the US.
Responding to a question by Weller, the Minister explained that the new government has taken steps to recommence the peace negotiation, highlighting that the ceasefire between the Government and the LTTE is continuing to hold.
The Minister invited Weller to visit Sri Lanka on a congressional delegation. Representative Weller explained that 2004 being the election year it was difficult to organise such a congressional delegation. However he was optimistic about a congressional delegation visiting Sri Lanka in early 2005.
He expressed satisfaction at the assurance that the TIFA process will continue with a view to concluding a Free Trade Agreement between the two countries.
Copyright © 2003 The Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Ltd.