Deputy US Trade Representative Jon Huntsman said Tuesday that "the US had great confidence in Sri Lanka, and was taking its economic relations with the country very seriously". Ambassador Huntsman made this observations when he addressed an Investment Roundtable hosted by the US Chamber of Commerce, on the theme " Sri Lanka- Gateway to South Asia", held as an integral part of the Second Meeting of the Joint Council established under the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA). The Roundtable was attended by Business Leaders from over 30 companies with current and prospective trade and investment connections with Sri Lanka, officials of the US Government and of the US Chamber of Commerce.

At the formal talks of the Joint Council held at the White House Conference Center in Washington D.C., Ambassador Huntsman who led the US delegation expressed satisfaction with the progress made so far under the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) between the US and Sri Lanka. He noted that within a matter of eight months since its establishment, the Joint Council had met twice, which is testimony to the importance both parties attach to bi-lateral trade and economic relations. He said the US regards Sri Lanka as a country with vast potential for economic development in South Asia. He emphasized the need to generate greater understanding among the US business community of the considerable trade and investment expansion opportunities in Sri Lanka and stressed the importance of evolving confidence building and problem solving mechanisms under the Joint Council to facilitate this process.

The TIFA agreement signed during Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe's visit to the White House in July, 2002, provides a framework to discuss bi-lateral and multi-lateral issues relating to Sri Lanka and the US. The Sri Lanka delegation to the talks were led by Minister of Enterprise Development, Industrial Policy, Investment Promotion & Constitutional Affairs Prof. G.L. Peiris and Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister Ravi Karunanayake. The Sri Lanka delegation included Sri Lanka's Ambassador to the US Devinda R. Subasinghe, Secretary Ministry of Commerce and Consumer Affairs Harsha Wicramasinghe and Chairman, Board of Investment (BOI) Arjunna Mahendran, Sri Lanka's Permanent Representative to WTO, Geneva K.J.Weerasinghe, Chairman United National Party, Mr. Malik Samarawicrema, Minister (Commercial) Saman Udagedara and First Secretary (Economic) Siro Gopallawa of the Embassy of Sri Lanka.

Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister Ravi Karunanayake, in his opening remarks stressed the urgent need to "commercialize peace" in Sri Lanka and said as the country moves towards finding a lasting solution to the ethnic conflict, that it was also focusing on confidence building mechanisms during this learning curve. The Minister said Sri Lanka needed to diversify the economy and the Prime Minister and the Government of Sri Lanka was focusing on this issue. He emphasized that Sri Lanka is committed to moving the TIFA to further expand bilateral trade and gain greater market access to the US.

Prof. G.L. Peiris, who joined the delegation after having led the Sri Lanka Government delegation to the 6th session of the Sri Lanka Peace Talks with the LTTE in Hakone, Japan, briefed the meeting on the latest developments concerning the peace process. He noted that during the past fifteen months of the cease fire agreement, the country had enjoyed considerable achievement in the areas of tourism, foreign direct investment and re-integration & interaction of trade between the north & south of the island after almost two decades of conflict. He said prospects for permanent peace are greater than ever before.

The two delegations agreed to explore the possibility of having trade missions visit their respective countries and to further strengthen enforcing and implementation while amending the law to incorporate new developments in these areas. They will also engage in further bilateral discussions at the officials level with respect to moving forward with the WTO's Doha Development Agenda.

It was agreed to continue the TIFA process with a meeting in Colombo and a subsequent meeting in Washington D.C. during the course of this year, highlighting the importance and potential of the US-Sri Lanka trade and investment relationship.

Embassy of Sri Lanka
Washington DC

25 March 2003


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