USA is an important investment partner for SL – Ravinatha Aryasinha
Asia’s first and largest virtual investor forum, SLIF 2021 showcasing Sri Lanka’s attractiveness SLIF 2021 showcasing Sri Lanka, was held from 07- 09 June 2021. The three-day forum organised by the Board of Investment, the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce and the Colombo Stock Exchange, provided a comprehensive understanding on the FDI and Capital Market opportunities in Sri Lanka.
In addition to coverage of policy topics and deep dive sessions on sectoral opportunities and enabling environments over the 3 days, country specific sessions designed for investors were also held during the forum. The focused country session for the USA was held on 09 June. The objective of this breakout session was to highlight investment opportunities in Sri Lanka for potential investors from the US.
The session commenced with an address by Ambassador of Sri Lanka to the United States of America Ravinatha Aryasinha, followed by Charge D’ Affairs, of the Embassy of the United States of America in Sri Lanka Martin Kelly. General Manager and Head of the Secretariat the American Chamber of Commerce in Sri Lanka Vrai Raymond provided a macroeconomic update on Sri Lanka, which was followed by a panel discussion with representatives of US companies based in Sri Lanka.
The panel was moderated by President of the US-Sri Lanka Business Council coming under the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce Asanka Rathnayaka. Delivering his welcome speech, Ambassador Aryasinha stated that “The US has been an important investment partner for Sri Lanka since 1978 and currently is the 10th largest investor in Sri Lanka. Latest data shows over 130 US based projects which account for nearly 500 million US Dollars. The most popular investment sectors for US companies are apparel and textiles, software development, tourism and leisure, infrastructure, and manufacturing.
We must also note that with the US being Sri Lanka’s main export destination accounting for 26% of Sri Lanka exports, there is always the potential for greater investment with buyback and arrangements which involve the US as well.” He also stated that recent trends indicate US companies are currently looking for new destinations and Sri Lanka is obviously considered potential for relocation. Further Ambassador Aryasinha used this opportunity to thank the US government for the support extended to Sri Lanka to overcome difficulties brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In conclusion Ambassador Aryasinha stated that the Sri Lanka mission in Washington has introduced a network to connect Sri Lankans living in the US who are interested in investing in Sri Lanka, as well as taking advantage of their knowledge regarding the business and investment climate in Sri Lanka to attract more FDIs from potential US companies.
The keynote address was made by Charge d’ Affairs of the Embassy of the United States of America in Sri Lanka Martin Kelly, who said, “Promoting trade and investment opportunities is one of the embassy's top priorities and a vital component of their efforts to encourage private sector led developments and toward stronger ties between the two countries. Sri Lanka was among the first countries in the region to open its economy and offers the highest standards of living among other advanced indicators in South Asia.
“Over the last seventeen years, the country continued to transition from an agriculture commodity based economy to become world leader in textile and apparel, a major exporter of IT and Communication related services and of course a world class destination for international tourists.” Kelly concluded his speech by stating that the government of Sri Lanka has promoted pro-business policies including tax benefits, to attract US and other foreign direct investments and the government has pledged to address the pending policy issues and I am confident that once the pandemic subsides, concrete efforts will begin to improve ease of doing business and ensure the required facilitation for US investors.
The breakout session concluded with a lively panel discussion with representatives of prominent US companies in Sri Lanka representing the service and manufacturing sectors, namely the Hilton group, Avery Dennison and American & Efird. The Hilton Colombo has been operating in Sri Lanka for over 30 years and General Manager of the Hilton Colombo Manesh Fernando was of the opinion that they are looking at two new expansions in the coming years., Avery Dennison General Manager and Country Head Lakshitha Dharmawansa stated that despite the difficulties faced due to COVID-19 the company is reinvesting and expanding their current product range whilst diversifying into new areas such as recycled polybags, organic base polybags and smart products.
, American & Efird Lanka (Pvt) Ltd Director Marketing, Sanjaya Chandraratne stated that A&E has been in operation in Sri Lanka for 20 years and is one of the leading manufacturers of industrial and consumer sewing thread, embroidery thread and technical textiles. They too are currently considering investing in the proposed Fabric Park at Eravur in the Eastern Province.