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18 November, 2015 09:00 AM Source: Financial Times - Sri Lanka
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Sri Lanka is looking to consolidate trade ties with the United States of America with Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr. Harsha De Silva voicing the Government’s intention of striking a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the US at “some point” in the future.
The US is currently the single largest importer of Sri Lankan goods with 25% of its exports going to North America. As of 2014 Sri Lanka had exported $ 2.4 billion worth of goods to the US, while importing goods worth $ 350 million. De Silva believes these numbers show it is now the opportune moment to build on trade between the two nations.

“It is time for all of us to redouble our efforts to forge a stronger trade relationship with the US. This is something your [Sri Lankan] Government is seriously interested in doing,” he said, speaking at the opening of the US Trade Show 2015 in Colombo yesterday.
“If we can at some point in time advance our discussions which started 12 years ago to culminate in a US-Sri Lanka FTA, we would want to do that. It is of course a long way ahead, but we are moving the discussion forward at the highest levels.”
While some may call a free trade pact with the US fanciful, Sri Lanka’s improving trade relations with the US gives more credence to the possibility. This fact was trumpeted by US Ambassador to Sri Lanka Atul Keshap, who shared his belief that moves made by the new Government have offered up “new and tremendous” business opportunities between the two countries.
“I believe that our two countries can do a tremendous amount together to enhance our economic relationship and expand our bilateral trade. That’s because the people of Sri Lanka have made clear their intent to leave aside the politics of the past in order to build a promising, unified future. And the Government of Sri Lanka has responded with plans to adopt policies that will make it easier for business to operate in and trade with Sri Lanka.”
Acknowledging Sri Lanka’s strategically advantageous geographic location, which naturally lends itself as a logistics hub as well as an attractive destination for expatriates, Keshap cited US Secretary of State John Kerry’s belief that Sri Lanka “has the potential to be the fulcrum of a modern Indo-Pacific region”. However, he noted achieving this vision would not be easy.
“American companies would like to see more economic policy consistency, a more fiscally stable government, and sustained enforcement of transparency policies in Sri Lanka,” he explained.
“American companies are looking invest in safe, stable and transparent policy environments, where they feel they can have long-term commitments. But I am confident President [Maithripala] Sirisena and Prime Minister [Ranil] Wickremesinghe and members of the business community can and will work together to make the tough reforms necessary.”

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