USA will make no major change in its trade policy towards Sri Lanka: envoy – The Island.lk (subscription)

The US has stressed that there shall be no major change in its trade policy towards Sri Lanka in the aftermath of its new administration -and hinted on stronger economic relations in future based on the bedrock US-Sri Lanka Trade & Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) inked in Washington in 2002, to which Colombo consented readily yesterday.

“It is tough to predict the future” stressed the Washington DC based visiting new Assistant US Trade Representative South and Central Asian Affairs Office of the US Trade Representative Mark Linscott on yesterday in Colombo. Assistant US Trade Representative Linscott was meeting Sri Lankan Ministry of Industry and Commerce Team led by Secretary of Ministry of Industry and Commerce Chinthaka Lokuhetti representing Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen, joined by Commerce Department Director General Sonali Wijeratne and other DoC officials and Minister Bathiudeen’s Senior Advisor Himali Jinadasa. Assistant US Trade Representative Linscott was joined by Economic and Commercial Officer of US Embassy in Colombo William Humnicky.

“The new US administration has a significant shift in change towards several of its trade agreements-mainly the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal; and there is a big focus on re-negotiating NAFTA as well as correcting our current trade deficits too” said Assistant US Trade Representative Linscott, and added: “Despite this I am not expecting any significant changes in US’ bilateral trade with Sri Lanka or our Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) with Sri Lanka. Being a hub in the region, this is a remarkably exciting time for Sri Lanka and we share the interest in working with Sri Lanka and exploiting its natural advantages for better trade. WTO Information Technology Agreement (ITA) and WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) would bring immediate international attention if Sri Lanka moves ahead while I agree that these are challenging initiatives for the country. Also we are pleased of the government’s Private Public Partnership vision which TIFA too stresses about. US is the largest export market for Sri Lanka but our exports to Sri Lanka have not increased in parallel and is down the list, something we need to work on,” Linscott said.

Sri Lankan officials apprised the Assistant US Trade Representative Linscott on the country’s many new trade initiatives based on the vision of the Unity Government of Sri Lanka and thanked for recent US-GSP support. “We welcome the recent US support by expanding US GSP’s scope which enhances our exports of travel goods to US” said Secretary Lokuhetti and added: “Sri Lanka has one of the highest US GSP utilisation rates among other US GSP beneficiaries –we use 85%. Therefore it is time we see more new initiatives via TIFA and are keen to strengthen the TIFA path. Having successfully concluded the inter-sessional meeting in September 2016 on 12th Joint Council Meeting (JCM) to adopt a five-year action plan, it is time to meet again.”

US Trade Representative Linscott responded: “We are looking to move on from the past and create a special (trade) plan for Sri Lanka on TIFA. A real example is using trade to increase economic growth. We too definitely want to see TIFA’s follow up on the progress achieved in Washington. I appreciate this frank exchange of ideas with the Ministry of Industry and Commerce in my first visit to Sri Lanka.”

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