SRI LANKA IS OPEN FOR BUSINESS: LANKA TRADE MISSION COMPLETES SUCCESSFUL VISIT TO UNITED STATES
Posted on August 1st, 2009

Embassy of Sri Lanka Washington DC USA

Efforts by the Board of Investment and the Sri Lankan Embassy in Washington DC generate unprecedented response from the US private sector

Generating an unprecedented scale of response from the private sector entrepreneurs in the United States (US), a major investment promotional drive launched across four major cities in the US over the last week ended on a highly successful note. The campaign, carried out from 20th – 24th July, included series of activities in Los Angeles, San Jose, New York and Washington DC.

The success is primarily due to the untiring efforts and planning by the Board of Investment (BOI) and the Embassy of Sri Lanka in Washington DC, who worked in close collaboration with the Sri Lanka Consulate General in Los Angeles and the Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka to the United Nations in New York.

Hon. Anura Priyadhashana Yapa, Minister of Enterprise Development, Investment Promotion and Media had the opportunity of meeting with enthusiastic American business leaders in New York and Washington, DC, as investors showed strong interest in post-conflict Sri Lanka.

The Minister told audiences at the Harvard Club of New York and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington DC that the end of the conflict with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam – LTTE had ushered in anew ear for the country’s economy. “At this crucial time in our history, our main objective is to expand the economy of Sri Lanka as far as we can,” Minister Yapa said.”

A large number of business leaders attended the investment forums in New York and Washington D.C., a mojority of whom had specific business proposals, according to Duminda Ariyasinghe, Executive Director of the BOI, who accompanied Minister Yapa.

Mr. Ariyasinghe gave the Harvard Club audience a detailed account of the sectors open for foreign investments, the incentives and the benefits the foreign investors in Sri Lanka could enjoy as part of a vast regional market that includes free trade agreements that Sri Lanka has with India and Pakistan.

The Manhattan Chamber of Commerce (MCC) was closely associated in organizing the investment forum held at the Harvard Club. The MCC represents the voice of over 100,000 companies in Manhattan and partner with over 300 diverse business organizations in the city. The MCC member companies, which have approximately 4.5 million employees globally, account for over $630 billion dollars in annual revenues.

The New York investment forum also marked the inauguration of the newly formed US-Sri Lanka Chamber of Commerce (USSLCC) – a timely initiative by the Sri Lanka Mission to the UN and the Embassy in Washington DC. The chamber already brings together a large number of private sector firms, owned primarily by expatriate Sri Lankan entrepreneurs based in the New York Tri-state region.

The audience also witnessed the MCC, one of the premier trade chambers in New York, and the USSLCC signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the purpose of fostering closer linkages between the business communities of the two countries. Following their signing of the MOU, Ms. Nancy Ploeger and Mr. Anil J Vitharana, presidents of the two chambers, addressed the gathering.

A large number of business representatives attended the investment briefing held at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce along with several senior U.S. trade officials, including Mr. Michael Delaney, Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for South and Central Asian Affairs and Ms. Holly Vineyard, Deputy Asst. Secretary for Africa, the Middle East and South Asia at the U.S. Commerce Department.

In his address, Mr. Delaney stated that he was highly impressed with the huge potential the post-conflict Sri Lanka holds for foreign investors. Mr. Delaney, who visited Sri Lanka twice over the last couple of months, would be leading an official delegation to Colombo in October this year for a Private-Public Partnership Conference and the next round of talks under the US-Sri Lanka Trade and Investment Framework Agreement – TIFA.

Jaliya Wickramasuriya, Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to the U.S., told the Washington gathering that, “Having successfully defeated terrorism after nearly thirty years of war, Sri Lanka’s investment potential has become ever more stronger and promising. The country is well set for a bright economic future.”

Ambassador urged the US private sector to have a fresh look at Sri Lanka and make use of the unique investment opportunities the island offers to the international business community. He also invited them to join the Private-Public Partnership Conference, which is scheduled to be held in Colombo in October this year on the sidelines of the TIFA talks.

The US Chamber of Commerce is the world’s largest business federation, representing more than three million businesses and organizations of every size, sector and region.

The Washington meeting occurred on the same day that the International Monetary Fund in Washington approved a $2.5 billion standby loan facility for Sri Lanka.

Minister Yapa explained that there were over 75 U.S. companies currently in Sri Lanka with direct foreign investment of $200 million. The immediate goal, he said, is to expand that investment to $1 billion.

Two days before Minister Yapa arrived in the U.S. for meetings in New York and Washington, two other top Sri Lankan development officials met with business leaders in California.

On July 20, Mr. Kulasekera , Deputy Director General (Investment & Promotion) and Mr Duminda Ariyasinghe, Executive Director (Investor & Promotion) of Sri Lanka’s Board of Investment (BOI), took part in a business roundtable at the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce. After the session, they held one-on-one meetings with potential Sri Lankan investors, including a dairy company.

At a business luncheon, BOI Officials briefed a group of potential investors on the economic situation in Sri Lanka and prospects for foreign investment in a post-conflict economy.

On July 21, the Sri Lankan the Board of Investment officials met in San Jose, California, with representatives of a Japanese automobile spare parts company that is contemplating establishing a production facility in Sri Lanka. The company already operates in other Asian nations but is considering relocating to Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka Board of Investment officials also met with a shrimp farming company that wants to locate in Sri Lanka to produce shrimp but also extract glucosamine from shrimp shells. Glucosamine is a dietary supplement that is used to treat arthritis.

A third meeting on July 21 involved talks with a developer who wants to establish a 100-acre eco-park in Sri Lanka, a facility that will grow herbs while serving as a resort.

Other meetings involved discussions with a condominium developer and an investment portfolio management firm.

The San Jose visit closed with a meeting between the BOI Officials and a Senior Vice President of Google, the internet search engine company. Those discussions involved the status of Sri Lanka’s internet technology and how Google may outsource some of its activities to Sri Lanka.

The Office of the USTR and the Embassy are already working very closely in attracting as many companies as possible to the Private-Public Partnership Conference in Colombo this October. The participants will also have an opportunity to meet with the senior policy makers in the Sri Lankan government and visit Trincomalie, a port city in the eastern-region, in order to have a first-hand look at the emerging investment opportunities in the region.

Visit of the Minister and the BOI officials to the US was an initiative by the Embassy, which worked in close collaboration with the Sri Lanka Consulate in Los Angeles and Permanent Mission of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka to the United Nations in New York. The Embassy is also planning to form a U.S.-Sri Lanka Business Council to promote mutually beneficial trade and investment links between the two countries.

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