SRI LANKA - CANDIDATE FOR A U.S. FREE TRADE
At a Conference sponsored by the Institute for International
Economics (IIE) titled "Free Trade Agreements and US Policy"
Ambassador Robert Zoellick, United States Trade Representative
(USTR) mentioned Sri Lanka as a potential candidate for a FTA
with the United States.
He stated that the Bush administration will accelerate its bilateral
and small country/regional approach to liberalise global trade,
especially if the WTO "Doha Development Round" talks
stall. He mentioned ASEAN countries as a possibility and also
identified the Middle East, the Dominican Republic and Columbia
as potential candidates. This statement follows the signing of
the first FTA with an Asian country when Prime Minister Goh and
President Bush signed the US-Singapore FTA in Washington, D.C.
on May 6, 2003. Following Zoellick's comments President Bush offered
on Friday May 9, 2003 a US-Middle East Free Trade Area by 2013
as an economic incentive to that region.
Ambassador Zoellick elaborated that four key criteria are being
used to identify candidates for potential US FTA's- 1. progress
on economic reforms 2. support for US positions in global trade
negotiations including the Doha Round 3. support for US foreign
policy objectives, 4. impact of a FTA on overall regional integration.
"The mentioning of Sri Lanka as a potential candidate is
significant in that this is the first indication for a FTA in
South Asia. With 41% of our exports (primarily apparel and garments)
worth US$2 billion destined to the US market, this is very significant
for our industry" said Sri Lanka's Ambassador to the United
States, Devinda R. Subasinghe. "This is the outcome of significant
progress made within the US-Sri Lanka Trade and Investment Framework
Agreement (TIFA) signed during Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe's
visit to Washington to meet with President Bush in July 2002."
Meetings of the US-Sri Lanka Joint Council were held in Colombo
in November 2002 and in Washington in March 2003 co-chaired by
Deputy United States Trade Representative Amb. Jon Huntsman and
Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, Hon. Ravi Karunanayake
with the participation of Minister of Enterprise Development,
Industrial Policy and Investment Promotion and Constitutional
Affairs, Prof. G. L Peiris. Council meetings have advanced significantly
trade, commerce and investment relationships between the two countries.
Avenues for greater market access, including a possible FTA were
discussed at these meetings. The recent award of a 100 mw power
plant to a US corporation, Caterpillar Power was an outcome of
the TIFA process.
Minister of Economic Reform, Science and Technology Hon. Milinda
Moragoda met with Ambassador Zoellick during his visit to Washington
to co-chair the April 14 US-hosted Pre-Tokyo Seminar. Minister
Moragoda used this opportunity to discuss ways to build on the
success of the TIFA process and to move forward towards an FTA.
"The importance attached to the US-Sri Lanka political
and economic relationships indicates that the US takes the economic
relationship very seriously and Ambassador Zoellick's statement
clears the way for the government and industry to realize the
potential of Sri Lanka's candidacy" said Ambassador Devinda
Embassy of Sri Lanka
10 May 2003