Emphasizes need for financial and trade support

Ambassador Subasinghe briefing the U.S. Senate on Post Tsunami Relief, Recovery and Rehabilitation operations in Sri Lanka said that the unprecedented devastation wrought by the Tsunami on Sri Lanka has far reaching implications on the Sri Lankan economy, in particular sectors such as tourism, fisheries, coastal agriculture, manufacturing, transportation and employment, small business and retail trade in the affected areas.

The briefing entitled “A Disaster of Unprecedented Magnitude for Sri Lanka: Update on Relief, Recovery and Rehabilitation” was convened by Senator John McCain (R-AZ) and Senator Joe Biden (D-DE) for the U.S. Senate Staffers following the recent Tsunami. The purpose of the briefing, which was held on Wednesday January 12, 2005, at Senate Dirkson Building, Washington D.C. was to initiate and sustain the momentum in the US Senate to chart a long term aid and trade package for Sri Lanka’s rehabilitation and reconstruction needs in the wake of the devastation caused by the Tsunami.

Ambassador Subasinghe explained that the reconstruction and rehabilitation of infrastructure including roads, railroads, schools, hospitals, and properties etc., destroyed by the Tsunami needed large quantum of public and private sector investment. It was necessary to start up small business, retail trade, refurbishing tourist hotels, build infrastructure, schools, hospitals, roads and railroads etc., to bring normalcy in the affected areas. The private sector is expected to play a crucial role in reconstruction of the affected areas he further added.

He explained that India, which immediately responded to Sri Lanka’s needs in the aftermath of Tsunami, was working with the U.S. to coordinate rescue and relief operations.

Ambassador Subasinghe pointed out that the Sri Lanka’s apparel industry, which heavily depends on access to the U.S. market remains largely unaffected by the Tsunami and it is capable of contributing to the reconstruction and growth expectations of the people of Sri Lanka. Provided, however, that market access for apparel products from Sri Lanka to the U.S. market, is accorded in form of suspension of import duty for a period of three years to level the “playing field”. Emphasizing the role of the private sector in rebuilding and rehabilitation efforts he said “Sri Lanka, which is committed to free and fair trade, believes trade is a two way street. Apparel companies in Sri Lanka follow global corporate, social responsibility, international labour and environmental standards.”

Congressional Staffers from the Offices of Senators George Allen (R-VA), John Ensign (R-NV), Conrad Burns (R-MT), Conrad Burns (R-MT), Kent Conrad (D-ND), Pat Roberts (R-KS), Mike DeWine (R-OH), John Sununu (R-NH), Chcuk Hagel (R-NE), Gordan Smith (R-OR), Mike De Wine (R-OH), John Isakson (D-GA), Thad Cochran (R-MS), Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), Elizabeth Dole (R-NC), Norm Coleman (R-MN), Mel Martinez (R-FL) and staffers from Senate Committees on Finance, Committee on Foreign Relations attended the briefing.

Earlier Ambassador Subasinghe had discussions with Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN), Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS) and Senator Jon S. Corzine who visited Sri Lanka from January 5-7, 2005 to obtain a first hand account of the areas affected by the Tsunami, the condition of the people affected by it, including the status of relief efforts. He also briefed Senator John McCain on the magnitude of the disaster, ongoing relief operation, the U.S. assistance, long term financial and trade relief measures necessary for reconstruction and rehabilitation.

This meeting was a part of efforts of the Embassy to brief US Congress, Administration and Business Community on the ongoing relief and rehabilitation operation in Sri Lanka to chart a long term aid and trade package for Sri Lanka.

Embassy of Sri Lanka
Washington DC

12 January 2005


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