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US ready to pursue FTA with Sri Lanka

Lanka Business Online
Let’s Chat
23 June 2004

The United States says it is keen to pursue a trade pact with Sri Lanka and agreed to meet in October to iron out issues.

US Trade Representative, Robert B Zoellick told visiting Sri Lankan Trade Minister Jeyraj Fernandopulle that the TIFA process should be deepened to facilitate business and investment issues between the two countries.

While these confidence building measures are being worked out Zoellick suggested that Sri Lanka should also review the free trade pacts concluded by the US with its other trading partners, to have an understanding of the extent of trade and investment liberalisation that comes in the US Free Trade Agreements.

Fernandopulle pledged to strictly enforce Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) laws and sign up for the WTO Information Technology Agreement, the Sri Lankan Embassy in Washington said.

Fernandopulle also met Alan Larson, Under Secretary of State for Economic, Business and Agricultural Affairs, Christina Rocca, Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs and had discussions on the peace process, a possible drawdown of funds under the US Millennium Challenge Account, food aid programme implemented by the US Agriculture Dept., and bilateral political and economic relations.

He also met Representative Frank Pallone (Democrat-New Jersey), Co-Chair of the Sri Lanka Congressional Caucus.

Fernandopulle also addressed the US-Sri Lanka Working Group at the US Chamber of Commerce and presented the trade and economic policies of the new Government, the investment opportunities available in Sri Lanka for US investors and steps being taken by the government to restart the peace negotiations.

He highlighted the potential for bilateral trade to grow under a Sri Lanka-US FTA and thanked members of the US-Sri Lanka Working Group for supporting the proposed Sri Lanka-US FTA.

Representatives of the major US companies who attended the meeting had an interaction with the Sri Lanka Business delegation that accompanied the Minister.

The Sri Lanka business delegation comprised Chairman, Joint Apparel Association Forum, Managing Director, Mast Lanka/Brandix Apparel, Chairman, MAS Holdings Ltd., American Chamber of Commerce, Colombo, Director, Favourite Group, Chairman, Daya Group of Companies, CEO/Managing Director, Orit Apparels Lanka Pvt. Ltd. and Managing Director of Oryx Benoidar Ltd.

The US Companies included PDI Program Development International, LLC, Caterpillar, Nathan Associates, American International Group Inc., Pillsbury Winthrop, LLP, The AES Corporation, Johnson & Johnson and Millennium Information Technologies.

The US is Sri Lanka’s biggest export market for apparels, accounting for nearly 64 percent. But Sri Lanka is finding it tough to retain its market share as the curtain falls on the 25-year old textile quota regime in December.

The proposed trade pact, however, has got stuck since the political crisis erupted last November. The new Sri Lankan government said it is keen to pursue the matter, though its American counterparts are kept busy with the upcoming US elections

Three rounds of talks on a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA), were already well underway, until political in-fighting at home, effectively scuttled the process.