United States Ambassador to Sri Lanka Atul Keshap says the U.S. is committed to electoral democracy. The Ambassador also said the 2016 U.S. presidential election is a lot like Sri Lanka’s presidential election in January 2015, where people voted in a smooth transition of power. Ambassador Keshap joined News Radio in an exclusive interview.
Q: Will there be a change in the foreign policies between Sri Lanka and the United States after the election of Donald Trump as U. S. President?
My sense is that you know, just like the people of Sri Lanka voted in January of 2015 for the current government, our people in America have been engaging in peaceful, orderly transitions of civilian power through the ballot box and through very, very clear democratic processes for 240 years. So this is an accomplishment that U.S. and Sri Lanka share in common, and a real passionate commitment to electoral democracy and rule by the people. So, the tradition of non-partisanship as well in foreign policy is very strong.
So to answer your question, American Foreign Policy, like that of any country is based on American national interest and American national values and the values of interest in the American people overseas would generally remain consistent between administrations. Obviously we now have a President elect – president elect Trump and Secretary Clinton and President Obama gave wonderful statements about how after every election it’s time to unite the country with a united purpose and see that the nation and the country succeed in foreign policy. You know over the course of my career I have seen a lot of continuity because foreign policy is made by institutions and by the elected representatives of the American people and of course by the Constitution the President of the United States has authority over foreign policy. But it reflects the will, the interest and values of the American people all the time. We look forward to seeing what the president elect decides over the course of his tenure. We will continue as an Embassy here and throughout the United States government to serve our lawfully elected officials as per our Constitutional oaths and obligations so we are looking forward to it.
Q: With regards to the relations between the two countries, especially trade related relations; can we expect Sri Lanka and the United States to continue under the Trump administration in good faith?
Well the great news about trade relations between the U.S. and Sri Lanka is that we are privileged to be your number one export partner. You know there’s almost three billion USD in goods and services that flow out of Sri Lanka each year to the United States and they generate something like 200,000 or more jobs; really good jobs in Sri Lanka and there are some fantastic things that Sri Lankans do and produce in services and manufacturing that have a very healthy demand in the United States, whether its textiles or Information Technology or its world class products like Ceylon tea and I don’t think any of that is going to change. In fact when I talk to the American companies here there is a lot of optimism about the direction of the Sri Lankan government, about the political leadership of the country as exhibited by the voters of this country and there is a lot of renewed interest in Sri Lanka. So I think that as our business communities work with each other, my hope is that one day this will be a country known not only for the greatest tea in the world but perhaps the greatest IT in the world. We are seeing very robust growth in employment by American companies in the IT sector here in Colombo. You’ve got great graduates coming out of Peradeniya and Colombo and other places that are catching the eye of our IT companies. I think there is a great story here and I think that now that peace is at hand in this country you’ve got a robust democracy and there is a lot of upside growth. You know at the end of the day these are private sector driven and the U.S. government’s job has always been to facilitate private sector connectivity – it’s for the benefit of not only our companies but your companies and for mutual prosperity. Certainly from the perspective of the Embassy here that’s what we are trying to do and we’ll certainly continue to do what our elected leaders tell us.