Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama, who on Thursday (4 October 2007) met with Ms. Henrietta H. Fore, Acting Administrator/ USAID in Washington, to seek greater USAID partnership in Sri Lanka, particularly in the re-development of the Eastern province.

USAID expressed their interest on plans for the Eastern Development activities and mentioned that USAID would like to get inputs from Sri Lanka on the nature of the programmes Sri Lanka would like to have their assistance. The Minister said the three main targeted sections that were identified for development includes agriculture, fisheries and recreational areas for people including playgrounds/ parks. USAID also highlighted the importance of creating an environment, in which IDP's could willingly return. It was noted that all IDP returnees are within accepted UN regulations and in some areas certification of the UNDP is needed after the completion of de-mining. The Minister mentioned that through public-private sector partnership, the private sector can come in and share the benefits after the public sector will do the basic infrastructure development. He noted that the Chambers will be a good point of contact emphasizing that there are strong chambers in the Batticaloa/ Trinco area. Ms. Henrietta added that they are happy to meet the country director in Colombo and to help bring the private sector in.

The Minister also met with Congressman Jim McDermott (Democrat - WA) on 03rd October 2007, over a number of matters, primarily relating to promotion of economic linkages between the two countries. Despite all the challenges, the Sri Lankan apparel sector was determined to maintain highest international standards in regard to protection of worker rights and environment protection, the Minster said. In recognition of our integrity and the ethical manufacturing practices, he said the EU has granted Sri Lanka with "GSP Plus" status and, as a result, our exports to the European market have shown a significant growth in the recent past.

Congressman McDermott, who was appreciative of the development projects envisaged by the Sri Lankan government for the rural sector and the ethical manufacturing practices pursued by the business community, , stated that he would explore the possibility of accommodating Sri Lanka in his bill. However, he cautioned that the trade an economic climate in the US had changed to a great extent in the recent past and, therefore, his bill, which proposes duty-free, quota-free market access for a host of least developed countries and a few selected vulnerable economies.

The Minister also met with Kevin Burke, President and Chief Executive Officer and Mr. Stephan Lamar, Executive Vice President of the American Apparel and Footwear Association (AAFA) . the Minister and AAFA officials had a frank exchange of views on the ongoing developments in the US and Sri Lanka, both on the political and the economic fronts. The Minister stated that the apparel industry played a pivotal role in the Sri Lankan economy as it made a substantial contribution to the island's GDP and generated vast employment opportunities at the grassroots level.

Embassy of Sri Lanka
Washington DC

04 October 2007

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