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Cablegate: Us Reps Focus On Trade During Private

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958: N/A

1. Summary: US Representatives Jerry Weller and
Scott Garrett were in Sri Lanka from June 29 to
July 3 on a private visit sponsored by a local
business chamber. The US Reps, both members of the
Hill's Sri Lanka Caucus, focused primarily on trade
during meetings with a wide range of Sri Lankan
private sector and government leaders, including
the President and Prime Minister. The US Reps also
proposed a possible parliamentary exchange with Sri
Lanka. End Summary.

Exploring Trade Opportunities

2. US Reps Jerry Weller and Scott Garrett recently
concluded a 4 day private visit to Sri Lanka
sponsored by Sri Lanka's Federation of Chambers of
Commerce and Industry. The US Reps emphasized in
meetings and events throughout their stay that the
purpose of their visit was to expand trade
opportunities between the US and Sri Lanka. In a
meeting with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe,
the US Reps praised him for his commitment to
further economic liberalization. They pressed
Wickremesinghe to move forward with legislation
(now pending before Parliament) to protect
intellectual property, noting that Congress took a
dim view of countries that fail to protect
Intellectual Property Rights (IPR). Wickremesinghe
assured the delegation that TRIPS-compliant
legislation would pass Parliament by September,
despite a current court challenge to a portion of
the legislation that deals with pharmaceutical
patents. US Reps emphasized that legislation alone
was not sufficient; GSL will need to follow through
with strict IPR enforcement.

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3. Wickremesinghe asked the US Reps how they
viewed the prospects for a US-Sri Lankan FTA. US
Reps underlined their commitment to broad-based
free trade as the best way to increase income
levels, in both the developing and developed world.
Sri Lanka, they said, should take pride in being
the first country in South Asia with which the US
has signed a Trade and Investment Framework
Agreement (TIFA). The US, they added, has high FTA
standards, and any agreement would require
extensive further liberalization of the Sri Lankan
economy. While they hoped the US would move on to
FTA negotiations with Sri Lanka in the future, much
would depend on Sri Lanka's commitment to open
access for US goods and services. US Reps noted
that increased business opportunities for US firms
in Sri Lanka would be an important element in
gaining the support of the US business community
for an FTA. US Reps made similar points about
strict US FTA requirements during a press
conference at the conclusion of their visit.

4. US Reps also called on President Chandrika
Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, who offered them her view
on free trade. Kumaratunga said she is in favor of
free trade - up to a point. A country like Sri
Lanka, however, must ensure that the livelihoods of
local farmers are protected in any FTA negotiations
(she pointedly noted that the US also protects its
agricultural industry). US Reps emphasized the
need for Sri Lanka to liberalize the economy as
much as possible, noting that expanded free trade
would bring better economic opportunities to all
Sri Lankans. The atmosphere in the meeting with
Kumaratunga was highly cordial, and any
cohabitations strains she is experiencing with the
government of Wickremesinghe were not evident.

5. US Reps also discussed opportunities for
increasing trade with Minister of Commerce and
Consumer Affairs Ravi Karunanayake and G.L. Peiris,
Minister of Enterprise Development, Industrial
Policy and Investment Promotion. The delegation
had additional meetings with leading Sri Lankan
business groups and chambers, as well as the
American Chamber of Commerce in Sri Lanka.

Possible Parliamentary Exchange

6. US Reps also met with the Speaker of the
Parliament Joseph Michael Perera and had the
opportunity to interact with a wide variety of
Members of Parliament, including the leader of the
Opposition and representatives of leading Tamil and
Muslim parties. The delegation discussed with the
Speaker the possibility of a Parliamentary exchange
with Sri Lanka, noting that both legislatures could
benefit from the exchange of views and experience.
US Reps agreed to stay in touch with the Speaker to
begin to plan for the exchange. They also
mentioned the proposal to President Kumaratunga,
who said she liked the idea.


7. This private visit is the first visit - official
or otherwise - by Members of Congress to Sri Lanka
in several years. The Congressmen engaged key
government leaders across the political spectrum
and saw first hand the commercial opportunities for
US companies in this, South Asia's most open
economy. Sri Lanka, for its part, used the visit
to voice clearly its commitment to free trade with
the US - including making the structural reforms
that an FTA will require. Post expects this visit
to be the beginning of greater Congressional
engagement in Sri Lanka.

8. US Reps Weller and Garrett have not cleared this


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