By Asiri Fernando
A level playing field and working with diverse partners could see more beneficial foreign investment come in to Sri Lanka, US Ambassador for Sri Lanka and Maldives Alaina B. Teplitz said yesterday.
The US Ambassador made the comments at a roundtable discussion held online, the first such discussion since the Biden administration took office in Washington. Teplitz said that in spite of change in administration in Washington, the US remains committed to enduring polices on democratic values, free and open navigation of the Indo-Pacific and economic progress.
“Our interest in the region is enduring. We are going to continue to support open and secure transit of the sea and the air. We are going to continue to support inclusive development, fair and transparent trade and investment, and respect for and among nations for existing international norms.
“As a part of that commitment, we are going to support a strong, sovereign, inclusive and prosperous Sri Lanka,” Ambassador Teplitz stressed, adding that the US looks forward to endearing with the Rajapaksa Government.
“US businesses can deliver, there is cutting edge technology and there is green technology, especially for companies in the energy space and there are real opportunities which can allow Sri Lanka to leap forward,” Teplitz said, expressing hope that proposals submitted by US energy giants will receive “fair and equitable treatment” and local tender procedure is applied to them equitably.
“The US believes that partnerships between countries should be open, transparent and mutually beneficial. And, if this is what embodies Sri Lanka’s relationship with China, we continue to encourage it,” Teplitz said, responding to a question on if the US remained concerned that Sri Lanka was not engaging with all partners equally, particularly in relation to Sino-Sri Lankan engagement.
However, Ambassador Teplitz called on Sri Lanka to broaden their economic partner base and said offering a fair and levelled playing field will help attract more beneficial investments and help Sri Lankan industries become more competitive and sustainable.
“The US is already Sri Lanka’s largest export destination. There are opportunities for US businesses to collaborate both on exports and also to look at investments here. But the playing field has to be levelled. This is not only in terms of public procurements and Government tenders but also private sector opportunities,” the top US diplomat in Colombo explained.
Ambassador Teplitz pointed out that ease of doing business needs to improve, be it when getting a permit, approval or acquiring factory space which businesses need through a clear, transparent and quick process.
Working with a broader partner base, including the US will bring benefits such as technology and training transfer to the country, higher standards for environmental consideration and will have Sri Lankans employed and managing the projects and see imported labour that competes with Sri Lankan workers, Teplitz opined.