“We thank the US for being our top apparel customer,” says Rishad
The US is keen to promote further trade and investments in the resurgent Sri Lanka.
“Sri Lanka Expo 2012 is a great idea. Our arrival here for Expo 2012 is also to notify the world that Sri Lanka is back on the world stage,” said Michael J Delaney, Assistant US Trade Representative of South and Central Asia.
Delaney was addressing Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen, having made a courtesy call on the latter on Monday.
Delaney is leading a US business delegation to the Expo 2012 exhibition that commences today, 28 March.
Addressing Delaney, Minister Bathiudeen said: “We in Sri Lanka are now enjoying peace and unity among all communities thanks to the visionary leadership of President Mahinda Rajapaksa. I am pleased to note that in 2011, our GDP surpassed the Rs. 6.5 trillion mark with a growth rate of 8.3%.”
“We thank the US for visiting Expo 2012 and also its continuous assistance to Sri Lanka in various aspects and more importantly, for being the top buyer of our apparels. We also need to thank you for the USAID-funded enterprise development program, BIZ Plus, which is set to help the north and east,” Minister Bathiudeen said.
“The ‘Divi Neguma’ program, a national level effort initiated by Minister of Economic Development Basil Rajapaksa, is set to uplift the village level backyard economic units across the country and now also has been expanded to develop the northern and eastern rural economy sector,” Bathiudeen added.
Delaney stressed that the US is keen on increasing trade and investment cooperation with Sri Lanka. “The US is Sri Lanka’s topmost customer. US consumers of Sri Lankan apparels are probably the largest single employer of Sri Lanka’s workforce. Our continuous purchases of Sri Lankan apparels are assisting many workers in Sri Lankan apparel sector.”
According to the Department of Commerce apparel products remain the largest single Sri Lankan export item to the US. Of Sri Lanka’s US$ 4,039 m apparel exports to the world in 2011, 39.36% ($ 1,590 m) was directly absorbed by the US market, rising from $ 1,297.5 m in 2009. Another Sri Lankan product line in demand in the US market is the ‘rubber-based product’ category.
When it comes to SL-US trade, the balance of trade has always been in favour of Sri Lanka during the past several years, while total trade levels from 2003 to 2010 remained somewhat unchanged. In 2003, the total trade was $ 1,962.20 m and in 2010 climbed to $ 1,933.08 m.
During the past 50 years, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has provided assistance (not loans) to Sri Lanka to the value of US$ 2 b in areas, among others, education, tsunami reconstruction, demining and public private partnership ventures. Around 4,000 Sri Lankan students are currently pursuing their studies in the US.
Also present during the courtesy call were Sri Lankan Ambassador to the US Jaliya Wickramasuriya), US Embassy in Colombo Economic and Commercial Affairs Counsellor Edward Heartney, Director General of Commerce of Sri Lanka P.D. Fernando and Embassy of Sri Lanka in Washington DC Minister Commerce Bandula Somasiri.