|U.S. BUSINESSES, GOVERNMENT REPRESENTATIVES TOUR PORT
CITY WITH SRI LANKAN OFFICIALS
U.S. companies impressed with more opportunities, investment
A group of American and Indian business leaders
joined a delegation of U.S. and Sri Lankan trade officials on
14 October visit to Trincomalee, a city in the Eastern province
of Sri Lanka, which was just months ago enveloped in a terrorist
conflict. The trade mission to coastal Trincomalee was part of
the Sri Lankan government’s efforts to rebuild its Eastern
and Northern Provinces, where it concluded its 26-year conflict
with the Liberation Tiger of Tamil Eelam terrorist group in May.
“The Eastern Province is the model for
redeveloping the North,’’ said Jaliya Wickramasuriya,
Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to the United States and a member
of the government delegation. “Trincomalee has taken the
lead in that effort. That is why we are here.” The day-long
visit was intended to encourage large and medium-sized businesses
to operate in the Eastern Province.
Sri Lankan forces defeated the LTTE in May 2009,
but the conflict displaced about 225,000 people in the Eastern
Province and eventually 290,000 people in the North. The Eastern
Province residents have been fully resettled. The government is
steadily started resettling displaced people who are in welfare
centers in Vavuniya. The government is determined to resettle
most of the displaced by end of this year.
The government has launched major infrastructure
development campaigns in both the East and the North. The projects
include the construction of new roads and bridges, rail line repairs,
upgrades to water and sewage works, new irrigation systems, hospitals,
schools and municipal buildings.
During the visit, the group of about 20 business
people and about a dozen U.S. and Sri Lankan government officials
first met with the Chamber of Commerce & Industries of Trincomalee
District at the Hotel Club Oceanic for a beachfront briefing on
the region’s economy. The trade mission also received a
briefing on Trincomalee and national government plans to develop
the Eastern Province from the Staff of Eastern Province Governor
Mohan Wijewickrama and an official with the Sri Lanka Board of
Investment. Some of those who took part in the day-long visit
to Trincomalee run construction businesses that could share in
the re-development work. Others represented manufacturing and
Tourism has bounced back since the conclusion
of the LTTE conflict in May. In August visits were up 34.3 percent
compared to August 2008, and in July tourist arrivals were 28.6
percent above those a year earlier. Sri Lankan tourism officials
said that the country will need an additional 20,000 hotel rooms
by 2016. Currently there are about 30,000 hotel rooms.
Sri Lanka expects about 500,000 visitors this
year. That’s the same number of tourist who came to Sri
Lanka in 1982 - the year before the conflict began. But it’s
a marked improvement over tourist arrivals in recent years. For
instance, just 167,187 tourists came in 2008. The tourism authority
expects more than one million tourists annually by 2016.
Melani Schultz of the U.S. Agency for International
Development (USAID) also briefed on livelihood projects that the
USAID’s CORE (Connecting Regional Economies) program is
conducting in the Eastern Province. They include partnering with
businesses to build up new enterprises, such as dairy farms, and
establishing vocational training centers.
Sri Lankan officials believe that creating livelihoods
for returning displaced communities is vital to stabilizing regions
that suffered through years of conflict and terrorism. U.S. officials
said they shared that view, and that they want to provide jobs
as a way of aiding post-conflict reconciliation. “Creating
good jobs and the opportunity for a brighter future is itself
the best single way the United States can contribute to reconciliation,”
said Michael Delaney, the Assistant U.S. Trade Representative
and Head of the U.S. delegation.
The visit concluded with a visit to the Sri Lanka
Navy’s Dockyard and a harbor tour on Navy swift boats.
The trade mission to Trincomalee was part of
a week-long series of meetings and negotiations regarding U.S.-Sri
Lankan business ties. The meetings included a “private-public
partnership” conference with about 40 U.S. businesses and
30 more companies with operations in India, as well as with trade
representatives and diplomats from both the U.S. and Sri Lanka.
The week also featured the seventh annual meeting between Sri
Lanka and the U.S. to discuss a Trade and Investment Framework
Agreement (TIFA) signed in 2002.
Embassy of Sri Lanka
14 October 2009