By Chandeepa Wettasinghe
The United States (US) government has called tit-for-tat on the Chinese government’s promise to commit US$ 5 billion in foreign direct investments (FDIs) to Sri Lanka over the next 5 years, by indicating an interest to provide a multi-million-dollar grant.
Speaking at the annual general meeting of the Industrial Association of Sri Lanka last evening, Foreign Affairs Deputy Minister Dr. Harsha de Silva said that US Assistant Secretary of Commerce Arun Kumar had dropped by for lunch yesterday to discuss the possibility of providing hundreds of millions of dollars in funding to Sri Lanka.
“He said that US is not China, and they can’t direct companies to come here or to build bridges or get universities to come here. But at the same time, the US can help us create the environment that would induce investors from the US and other places to come here and invest,” Dr. de Silva said.
He noted that US government Assistant Secretaries don’t just “drop by”, an indication, according to him, which showed an improvement in Sri Lanka’s foreign relations.
Mirror Business yesterday quoting the Chinese Ambassador in Colombo reported that China was willing to invest US$5 billion in Sri Lanka over the next 5 years with the blessing of the Sri Lankan government.
Even though the US is Sri Lanka’s largest export market, it had averaged just US$ 60 million in annual FDIs in recent years, compared to over US$ 400 million by China.
Dr.de Silva said that he, Kumar and US Assistant Trade Representative for Central and South Asia Michael Delaney had discussed extensively about the Millennium Challenge Corporation.
The Millennium Challenge Corporation is an independent financing corporation of the US government that provides funding to developing nations, which have committed to good governance
With a dramatic flare, Dr. de Silva said that he had to choose his next words carefully due to the presence of the press.
“‘Perhaps’ this may happen. We did discuss about the Millennium Challenge Corporation.
n the hundreds of millions of dollars, we may get a grant from the US government through the Millennium Challenge Corporation,” he said.
He said that as a government commits to the principles of good governance these were the types of grants Sri Lanka is expecting.
However, he also said that the relationship with China would be immensely beneficial in times to come as well.
“We shouldn’t stick to a position saying that we are pro this or pro that. We should do what’s good for us. We must be selfish. If it means we have to build bridges with people we criticized in the past, so be it,” he added.
He said that Sri Lanka’s current foreign policy is ideal, even though a year ago he had said that Sri Lanka must pursue a pro-West policy since its main markets are in the West.