Speaks on "Business Opportunities in Sri Lanka"

Visits Limited Brands in Columbus, Ohio

Ambassador Devinda R. Subasinghe, Sri Lanka's Ambassador to the United States and Mexico, was the first speaker at the seminar series sponsored by the Ashland International Business Initiative, a partnership between the Ashland University and Ashland Economic Development. The seminar series is an important component of the overall Regional International Export Program of the State of Ohio and, Ashland University is significantly involved in promoting the program. Previous speakers at the University have included Presidents Reagan and Bush and, Prime Ministers Thatcher and Netanyahu. The seminars will be presented on a quarterly basis and will cover countries such as, Mexico, Canada, Singapore, Costa Rica, Peru, Hungary and Georgia.

In his presentation entitled, "Business Opportunities in Sri Lanka," the Ambassador provided a profile of the country's increasing trade and economic relations with the U.S.A., Sri Lanka's business climate and it's investment incentives. Providing insights into the country's improving economy, the Ambassador mentioned that the economic prospects were strengthened in 2003 by increased economic growth, higher levels of investment, tourism arrivals and lower inflation.

Speaking to the Ohio business community, Ambassador Subasinghe emphasized the benefits that communities of all sizes such as, Ashland and Sri Lanka, could reap by reaching out to markets beyond their local environs. The Ambassador said, "while it's important to be grounded locally, communities of all sizes must look outward to the opportunities beyond their corners of the world. Opportunities for communities of all sizes to benefit from globalization are great. "

Showcasing Sri Lanka's special appeal for foreign investors, Ambassador Subasinghe highlighted the fifteen year old robust association that the US apparel giant, the Columbus (Ohio) based Limited Brands, Inc., has with Sri Lanka. He mentioned that Sri Lanka is an important sourcing destination for world class apparel and that Victoria's Secret sourced over US$350 million worth of merchandise from Sri Lanka in 2003. Further discussing business opportunities for Ohio businesses in Sri Lanka, the Ambassador mentioned that the range of export items from Ohio could include everything from agricultural products such as wheat and grains and soybeans to paper and paper board to computers.

Ambassador Subasinghe's visit to Ohio underscores the business promotion activities of the Embassy aimed at broadening and deepening the Sri Lanka-US trade and investment relationship. While in Ohio, Ambassador Subasinghe met with executives at the Headquarters of Limited Brands Inc. in Columbus and was hosted by the Ashland Mayor William Strine and the City Council.

Ambassador Subasinghe invited the Ashland business community to establish a mutually beneficial partnership with Sri Lanka by availing of the investment opportunities currently available in Sri Lanka. In particular, the Ambassador highlighted Sri Lanka's need for contractors or foreign companies to help build the country's water plants, roads, airports and invest in other available infrastructure development projects.

Trade relations between Ohio and Sri Lanka are over 50 years old. Rubber products manufacturers in Ohio have been importing natural rubber from Sri Lanka for their products, in particular, for the manufacture of tyres, which was amply evident from the visit of the then Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, Sir John Kotalawala, to the Firestone Tyre Factory in Akron, Ohio in 1954.

Fifty years later, Sri Lanka has a diversified export relationship with Ohio. In addition to the apparel and garment sector, Sri Lankan rubber and rubber products are consumed by Ohio industry. Abbott Laboratories' Hospital Products Division's Ashland facility employing 600 workers, imports Sri Lankan rubber for its products. Prospective Ashland area exports to Sri Lanka include agricultural products, medical rubber products, industrial machinery, paper and paper board. The Gorman-Rupp Pumps in Ohio exports pumps to Sri Lanka. A Sri Lankan business delegation in the crape rubber sector visited Cleveland and Akron in 2003.

President of the Ashland University, Dr. William Benz said, "There are great advantages in working together. This is the first step. This is the first chapter in developing those partnerships."

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Embassy of Sri Lanka
Washington DC

21 January 2004


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