The Ties that Bind the Long-Term USA – Sri Lanka Relationship
By Srimal Fernando, Global Editor, The Diplomatic Society
Geography has gained renewed importance in international affairs in the past few decades. Sri Lanka, at the crossroads of both east and west sea routes is strategically located. The Island nation has been maintaining a moderate economic growth since its economic liberalization in 1977 and has shared cordial political and strategic relations since Independence.
The year 2015 can be regarded as a turning point to develop close relations with US and Sri Lanka after undergoing some important changes in recent years.
Photo: US Secretary of State John Kerry shakes hands with Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera in Washington DC on 25 February2016
After President Maithripala Sirisena's surprise victory at the 2015 presidential polls, Sri Lanka turned its attention towards the USA.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has taken further steps to steer Sri Lankan foreign policy closer to the USA.
Relations have witnessed a strong growth in various areas including the commercial sector.
US Secretary of State John Kerry’s two-day visit in May 2015 to Sri Lanka was hailed as a landmark visit and ushered in stronger, diverse and expanded political and economic interactions. In the new context, a year later, Inaugural US – Sri Lanka Partnership Dialogue convened in Washington DC on 25th and 26th February 2016.
The evolving naval cooperation was further strengthened during the visit of the US Pacific command naval ship the U.S. 7th Fleet flagship USS Blue Ridge’s (LCC 19) to Colombo on March 27th 2016.
If Globalization can be described as the process of increasing the interconnectivity of the world markets and businesses then Sri Lanka is considered by investors as an attractive destination in the South Asian region.
Sri Lanka received foreign direct investment (FDI) worth US $ 1.6 billion in 2015 and succeeded in attracting a number of important projects in key sectors of investments (Board of Investments, Sri Lanka 2015).
Photo: Minister of Development Strategies and International Trade Malik Samarawickrama and US Trade Representative Ambassador Michael Froman
Investments from the USA to Sri Lanka are increasing. The current bi lateral trade turnover has grown and Sri Lankan products have also gradually gained a foot hold in the US market. Sri Lanka exports to US touched US$2.88 billion in 2015, up by 7.8 percent compared to the corresponding period (US Department of State, 2016).
Similarly, US through its United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has provided over US$2 billion in assistance to Sri Lanka since it achieved independence to various development projects in Sri Lanka . US -Sri Lanka cooperation acquired great depth due to the high levels of consultations and agreements reached through political will from both sides.
Photo: Minister of Development Strategies and International Trade Malik Samarawickrama, Ambassador for Sri Lanka to the USA Prasad Kariyawasam, United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations Ambassador Samantha Power and US Trade Representative Ambassador Michael Froman
In 2016, US hosted the 12th US-Sri Lanka Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) council meeting in Washington. TIFA has received the highest priority in building ties, deepening relations and strengthening cooperation. These engagements have paved the way for greater trade opportunities and business investments.
While addressing an US -Sri Lanka joint cooperation meeting in Washington Sri Lankan Minister of Development Strategies and International Trade Malik Samarawickrama said “ Sri Lanka is on the cusp of a transformative leap forward. However, there is much to be done and we require the goodwill and assistance of our friends like the USA”.
US – Sri Lanka ties are growing strong and is becoming one of the key global developments.