Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Sri Lanka post-war prospects scouted by US firms

American firms are scouting for business opportunities in post-war Sri Lanka in anticipation of accelerated economic growth, officials said.

Senior executives, mainly from top US companies in India, are in Colombo for talks with Sri Lankan firms and government agencies.

US investments could help rebuild the war-ravaged economy and contribute to lasting peace, Michael Delaney, assistant US Trade Representative for South Asia, told a conference on investment and business opportunities in post-conflict Sri Lanka.

"You can help bring employment and new opportunities to Sri Lankans affected by war," he told Sri Lankan and US representatives from both the public and private sectors.

"Employment generation is a key factor in fostering national reconciliation."

Among the American firms taking part in the conference were General Electric, Ford Motors, Marriott International, Rockwell Automation, Coca-Cola, 3M, Caterpillar, UPS, CH2M Hill, and Levi Strauss

The companies are looking at infrastructure development, energy, tourism, information technology, business process outsourcing, healthcare, education, manufacturing, food processing, trade financing, and logistics.

The visit of officials from US firms, organised by the American Chamber of Commerce in India, follows the end of the island's 30-year war when government forces defeated the Tamil Tiger separatists in May.

"Thanks to the peace dividend there's going to be a lot of growth in this country," Pradeep David, regional manager, South India of Rockwell Automation, told LBO in an interview.

He said he is looking for new markets for the company's industrial automation products designed to make manufacturing more efficient.

"For instance in the rubber industry, we can help improve productivity of tire building machines. Also, we have control system for use in airports and metros."

The US business team is scheduled to visit the eastern Trincomalee town on Wednesday.

The conference on public-private partnerships is being held on the sidelines of talks between the US and Sri Lankan governments on a free trade and investment deal between the two countries.

David Westerman, regional manager, Asia Pacific, Ford Export & Growth Operations, said he wants to identify a new distributor for Ford in Sri Lanka and understand how local import tax and duty structures impact import versus assembly.

"But there are no immediate plans for assembly operations here, although we will look at the advantages of manufacturing during my visit," Westerman said in an interview.

"We see a lot of positive things happening here in the next six months," he said. "With the end of the war we think there are going to be tremendous opportunities here, with a lot of growth and investment. Our desire is to get in early."

The total present value of US investments in Sri Lanka remains relatively small - about 250-300 million dollars.

The US is the largest single market for Sri Lankan exports. Sri Lanka exports about two billion dollars worth of goods to the US each year, mainly apparel and textile products.

Imports from the US are about 200-300 million dollars worth of products.

© Lanka Business Online

Related links:
Business and investor partnerships between Sri Lanka, US strengthened - Daily News
US, Lanka biz looks to rise above politics - The Bottom Line

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