Dr. Sarath Amunugama, Sri Lanka’s senior minister of international monetary cooperation, met with a group of U.S., business leaders here Monday and received an encouraging feedback on the investor interest in the Sri Lanka’s economy.
Some of the companies had already committed to new operations or expansion of existing projects in Sri Lanka.
“We are very optimistic about your growth,” said Janet Howard, Vice President of International Relations for the Coca Cola Co., “and Coca Cola’s future in Sri Lanka.”
Dr. Amunugama was in Washington D.C. to attend a series of annual meetings at the World Bank and International Monetary Fund headquarters.
The U. S. Chamber of Commerce, which continues to support the Embassy in its numerous promotions efforts, is currently exploring the possibility of meag a U.S.-Sri Lanka Business Council.
Dr. Amunugama also briefed the audience on the preferential market access any foreign investor, who set up manufacturing industries in the island can enjoy under the bilateral free trade agreements Sri Lanka has signed with India and Pakistan and the regional free trade agreement signed with the member countries of the SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation).
“In neighboring countries manufacturing companies complain of power outages,” he said, “but we can provide power that is uninterrupted. We recently built a new power plant and of course rely heavily on hydroelectricity.”
Tourism, he noted, is one of the island nation’s growth industries, “with more than 600,000 people arriving last year. We hope to have one million tourist this next year, and 2.5 million in a few more years.”
John Phipps, Senior Director of Global Government Relations for Visa, said that the credit card company was interested in the growth of Sri Lanka’s tourism industry.
“We’d be particularly interested in pre-paid products and debit cards, which have proven very popular,” Phipps said.
Dr. Amunugama responded that Sri Lanka plans to bolster is financial sector to create a regional banking center.
As part of the Embassy's ongoing promotional initiatives, the Sri Lankan Ambassador to the U.S., Jaliya Wickramasuriya, accompanied a delegation of U.S. business to Sri Lanka in late March. The firms that made that trip included the likes of the Boeing Co., the aircraft manufacturer, John Deere, the tractor and heavy equipment maker, Coca-Cola, Transinnova, AGL Partners and Venture Global Partners.
A number of major hotel groups, including Starwood, Marriott and Hilton, have also recently visited Sri Lanka in a search for new locations.
Foreign Direct Investment in Sri Lanka is expected to top $1 billion in 2011, according to Sri Lanka’s Central Bank. The U.S. is a key trading partner for Sri Lanka, which shipped goods worth $1.74 billion to America in 2010.
Embassy of Sri Lanka