August 5, 2021
Thank you and good afternoon everybody. Mr. Minister, Chairman De Mel and our colleagues from the Ceylon Chamber and of course implementers of the partner program and everyone here and joining us remotely.
It’s a pleasure to have a chance to witness the signing of the Tripartite MOU this afternoon. The United States and Sri Lanka do share a vision of prosperity and this is one of the ways that we can help achieve that and do so together.
The U.S. is the single largest export destination for Sri Lankan products. It accounts for almost $3 billion a year, almost one-quarter of Sri Lanka’s annual exports. From apparel to rubber; gemstones to tea and spices; the relationship is mutually beneficial. But we also know the relationship could grow and become more complex. So for exports to drive growth we know that small and medium enterprises need to become export-ready competitors. As the regional points of contact for small and medium enterprises, the Export Development Board’s development officers already know , that small businesses have an outsized impact on economies and as such, of course, they are uniquely situated to help realize this vision.
So today through this tripartite letter of cooperation we launched the training of the 300 development officers. It will improve their knowledge of trade procedures, export processes, and loads of market access.
Using this knowledge, these officers will help small and medium enterprises become competitive players in international markets and hopefully boost the towns of entrepreneurs island wide. They’re going to coach Sri Lankan businesses, especially SMEs outside of Colombo to develop and achieve export goals. They’ll connect them with export opportunities and they’ll help local businesses go global to better to a better understanding of and compliance with trade regulations in Sri Lanka and abroad. These development officers represent all Sri Lankan districts and ethnicities and around 70 percent of the development officers in this program are women which I hope will benefit women-led enterprises throughout the country. This initiative is a vital step towards linking businesses with buyers, increasing exports and incomes and facilitating private sector led growth. And I think in this most challenging time, as the world still struggles in the era of pandemic, focusing on some of the economic foundation that is going to lead to recovery is going to be crucial. Exports are going to play a very important role in that.
So the United States is very proud to invest in this initiative and I wish success for the program.