US keen to ride on Lanka’s growth
By Uditha Jayasinghe
Sri Lanka’s impressive economic growth is motivating the US Department of Commerce to urge their companies to have a second look at the island nation, a top official said yesterday.
US Department of Commerce Deputy Assistant Secretary for Africa, the Middle East and South Asia Holly Vineyard told the media that the progress of post-war Sri Lanka was “exciting” and that they were interested in increasing as well as diversifying trade between the two nations.
“We are very keen to engage more with Sri Lanka as we see great opportunities for increasing trade through more partnerships. The US is taking a more regional approach to increasing ties and we hope to identify specific opportunities during the mega Expo that Sri Lanka is organising in March 2012,” she said adding that they were also optimistic of the Sri Lankan government’s moves to increase its rankings in the World Bank Ease of Doing Business Rankings.
On the sidelines of the Expo the latest round of Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) talks between the US and Sri Lanka will be held to formulate policies. She remarked that US investment in the booming tourism industry did come up during her meetings with officials including the Board of Investment and that it was possible to explore prospects of franchising with global brands.
When questioned if the government’s controversial Expropriation Act was a concern to investors Vineyard declined to discuss “sensitive” issues with the media but pointed out that the best way forward was closer engagement with Sri Lanka and they are confident of the government being a strong partner.
“Last year Sri Lanka attracted over US$ 1 billion in Foreign Direct Investment, which is extremely good and an indication of how global investors perceive the country. As you have more and more trade there will be more and more issues to deal with and it is very important to have a partner willing to talk and resolve them. Sri Lanka has always been such a partner and that is very positive.”
China’s involvement with Sri Lanka was viewed optimistically by Vineyard who noted that US companies welcome competition from anywhere when there is a level playing field. She also called on authorities to consider the lifespan of projects and stressed that in terms of long term dependability and return US companies have a solid record.
US has also increased the number of trade delegations, particularly to India and Vineyard stated that her positive impression would spur the Trade Department to encourage them to drop in on Sri Lanka. In fact a delegation of 14 companies is travelling to India next month and Vineyard expects them to explore Sri Lanka’s harbours as investment options as well.
Despite Sri Lanka’s vulnerability for oil over Iran sanctions Vineyard insisted that the topic had not come up in any of her discussions with government officials.