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May 12, Washington, DC: The United States Department of State's FY 2017 budget request of $39.8 million will support Sri Lankan government's reforms to stimulate trade and investment, improve governance and human rights, and pursue reconciliation and accountability, a top official has said.
Testifying before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific in Washington, DC on Wednesday, the Assistant Secretary, Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs Nisha Desai Biswal said the bilateral relationship between the U.S. and Sri Lanka has been transformed over the past year, "thanks to a unity government led by a president and prime minister that are committed to reforms that can benefit all Sri Lankans."
Reviewing how the policies and programs supported by the $440.7 million FY 2017 budget request will sustain greater stability, security, and prosperity in South Asia and in the U.S. the top official told the Committee the diplomatic relations between the two countries are at an all-time high.
Biswal said Sri Lanka now has the opportunity to assume its rightful place as a leader in the international community, one that contributes to the global economy; promotes human rights, accountability, transitional justice, and democracy; and that helps to uphold international law.
She emphasized that Sri Lanka's strategic position in the Indian Ocean makes it a key player in regional efforts to ensure maritime security, protect freedom of navigation, and respond to natural disasters while its natural ports, abundant resources, and entrepreneurial people all mean enormous potential for economic growth and connectivity.
"With all of these factors in mind, our FY 2017 budget request of $39.8 million will support the government's reforms to stimulate trade and investment, improve governance and human rights, and pursue reconciliation and accountability," Assistant Secretary Biswal said.
Biswal said the U.S. is now working with Sri Lanka to implement the steps agreed to in the resolution jointly sponsored at the UN Human Rights Council last year.
She said the U.S. also support reconciliation through its public diplomacy programs, such as by teaching English, which serves as a linking language between Sri Lankan Sinhalese and Tamil communities.
The U.S. Embassy in Colombo is also working to strengthen Sri Lanka's media environment through training for journalists on access to information, increasing diversity in types of stories covered, and improving English language skills.
Assistant Secretary Biswal recalled that the two countries in the past month launched the U.S.-Sri Lanka Partnership Dialogue, which "expanded and reinforced our cooperation in development, governance, energy, trade, and security."
"And our approach to make Sri Lanka's economy stronger is truly whole-of government," she added.
The official told the Committee the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) just hosted the U.S.-Sri Lanka Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) Council Meeting at the end of April.
She further said that through the Department of Commerce, the U.S. will train Sri Lankan business leaders and government officials in best practices for Sri Lanka's nascent tourism industry, which is on track to have a banner year, according to the official.
In addition, the U.S. Treasury Department will soon embed an advisor in Sri Lanka's Ministry of Finance, who will assist the ministry with public financial management reforms for the next two years.