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 of
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
Washington DC

06 November 2003


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