Improving Sri Lanka’s Market Access to the US – Growing beyond the traditional products

The National Chamber of Exporters of Sri Lanka (NCE) is partnering with the Sri Lanka Embassy in Washington D.C. (SLEMB/DC) to better inform Sri Lankan exporters regards the evolving trends in the US market and strategies that could help navigate challenges and overcoming bottlenecks.

At a webinar held recently, over 40 Sri Lankan registered exporters, engaged with 10 selected business entrepreneurs identified by SLEMB/DC, following its State level interactions of the recently constituted Overseas Sri Lankans (OSL) Network. The event was also live streamed through social media of the Chamber, making the discussion accessible to a broader base of those interested in exporting to the USA. Moving forward, it was agreed to conduct sector specific dialogues, where the Sri Lankan exporters will be provided with the opportunity to engage in discussion with the business community of the particular sector, in order to foster mutually beneficial trading relationships. Further a separate event is proposed as a dialogue to enhancing long term trade related relationships such as partnerships, Franchise and Investment opportunities between the two countries.

Inaugurating the session, Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to the USA Ravinatha Aryasinha said, while increasing the value of apparel exports to the US, a concerted effort is presently being made to diversify the export product basket to US. He noted that while the USA has remained the largest single buyer of Sri Lanka’s exports since 1979 and in 2019 had a share of 26.3% of all exports, the products basket to the US had seen very little diversification. Apparel has been the dominant export item accounting for 74.5% of the total value, and did not benefit from GSP facility. The rest which enjoyed GSP, were mainly rubber based products which accounted for 7%, and the other products included tea, iron and steel articles, activated carbon, precious and semi-precious stones and sea food. The Embassy was reaching out to the OSL community in the US and to Americans who are interested in doing business with Sri Lanka and helping them in identifying the products which they could import from Sri Lanka to the US. The increased production of some of these products, could also encourage greater US investment in to Sri Lanka.

In the discussion that followed led by Chairman of the NEC Shiham Marikkar, focused on obstacles faced by importers when importing from Sri Lanka including quality assurance, pricing, promotion and communication and shipping and logistics. The need for adaptation to the largely e-commerce marketing strategies to increase exports. SLEMB/DC Minister (Commercial) Sumedha Ponnamperuma shared insights on the introduction of the US market, import system and current trends.

Management Committee:
President: Mr. Ravi Jayawardena, Vice President: Mr. Jayantha Karunaratne, Vice President: Mr. Indra Kaushal Rajapaksa, Immediate Past President: Mrs. Ramya Weerakoon, Past President: Mr. Ramal Jasinghe, Hony. Secretary: Mr. Dilshan Rajapaksa, Hony. Treasurer: Mr. Rajeev De Silva, Hony. Assistant Secretary: Mrs. Thushari Weerakoon, Hony. Assistant Treasurer: Mr. Lakshan Algama, 1 Representatives from the Council: Mrs. Nilrukshi De Silva & Mr. Farhath Amith

The participating Sri Lankan professionals residing and doing business in USA shared insights regarding the current market conditions and the opportunities available. Mr. Aruna Abeykoon from Las Vegas discussed obstacles faced by importers when importing from Sri Lanka, Mr. Jeevaka Fernando from Laos Angeles shared his experience on aspects related to Quality assurance, pricing, promotion and communication. Mr. Anjana Aluthwatte provided insights on sales and marketing strategies in the USA, Mr. Rick Miller from Virginia explained about the shipping and logistics including the including the potential to increase warehouse facilities to help mainly the SMEs exporting to the US in smaller quantities, Mrs. Udeni Abeykoon from New York focused on the selling of Apparel Products in the US market online and marketing strategies to increase exports, while Mr. Jeevaka Fernando from Los Angeles elaborated on important aspects regarding quality assurance, pricing, promotion and communication. Former Director General/Department of Commerce of Sri Lanka Nimal Karunathilake also shared his experience regarding the regulatory aspects of the USA market.

Some of the key highlights of the discussion were; • US is a highly competitive market due to the size of the market as well as the prominence in the world economy, therefore the businesses often dominate the trading terms. It is important for the exporters to understand this background when negotiating their business, as well as be well prepared to face challenges. The customs system and the import structure is unique and complex. Importers operate separately from the vendors.

• The importers face challenges when importing from Sri Lanka due to issues arising in quality, commitment and seriousness of exporters. Further lack of knowledge on the regulations in US market was also highlighted. Therefore, it is important to keep the commitment to source products as and when required, quality of the product as agreed.

• Discussing regarding GSP scheme, it was informed that the US GSP for Sri Lanka has expired on 31st December 2020 and currently the US Congress is in the process of deciding the next phase of GSP Scheme for all countries. Further discussing the beneficiary products range, it was mentioned that the Sri Lankan Exporters are requested to submit their suggestions to be included in the GSP eligible product list, when it comes for review of the scheme later in 2021.

• Another key feature that was highlighted was the quality. Quality is important, from process to storing stages, therefore the exporters need to be aware of different quality standards they have to comply with as well as the overall offering of the product.

• Pricing plays a key role and it is expected to be consistent. When exporters determine prices, it is important to analyze pricing elements in a broader perspective, including raw material, processing, transportation costs, storage costs, custom tariffs and insurance costs.

• It is important to support the SMEs and help them expand in the market as they could bring in quality products.

• US market due to its complexity and different regulations, finding partners is one of the key strategies to overcome barriers in exporting to US. The partners are often well conversant to cater to the market needs as well as assist the exporters to comply with the regulatory requirements. Further it is seen as an advantage regarding communication with multiple stakeholders given that partners are present in the US Market. Further another aspect to be mindful is the time differences between Sri Lanka and different zones.

• With the current situation there is a surge in usage of online platforms for selling and for marketing. However, it is important to focus on brand building rather than solely focusing on selling.

•Discussing regarding the apparel sector exports to USA, it was highlighted that the shopping patterns of people have drastically changed. More people prefer online shopping to physical stores and USA is a price sensitive market with high competition from competitors such as China and Bangladesh. However, the consumers are concerned regarding purchases from China, and this could be a positive opportunity for the Sri Lankan exporters in the sector. Another noteworthy change that has occurred in this sector is the reduction of stock turn-around time, as the consumers change their preference rapidly, as opposed in the past, further season specific colors and styles are preferred, and therefore the Sri Lankan Exporters should be ready to cater to the demand.

• Focusing on logistics, strategically locating businesses activities are important to ensure delivery on right time in right quantities, hence focusing on the timing and direction. East coast is one the convenient areas to reach the market, given the times and the convenience in reaching from Sri Lanka. The USA cities are connected with a rail road; therefore, it takes 3 to 10 days generally. For exporters who are hoping to expand in e-commerce, 19 to 20 days’ transit time is to be specially considered and for the exporters with smaller shipments, especially LCLs, it is important to select transit locations wisely in order to reap the best benefits of market opportunity.

The National Chamber of Exporters of Sri Lanka (NCE) is the only private sector Chamber which exclusively provides services to Sri Lankan Exporters, who make a vital contribution to the economy of Sri Lanka earning valuable foreign exchange. The Chamber has a membership of over 500 export companies, including some of the biggest Export houses in Sri Lanka, as well as a number of SME exporters. They are responsible for over half of the foreign exchange earnings of the country.

With a view to engage in successful market access promotional activities, the NCE is coordinating with all Sri Lankan Mission and their trade officers to jointly create awareness on the new market needs. Currently plans have been made to conduct a series of webinars, to provide valuable informative insights to the Exporters as well as connect them to relevant stakeholders.

The Chamber would like to invite Sri Lankan exporters to hold hands with the chamber’s initiative to enable expanded market access, whereby the destinations where proud Sri Lankan brands reach are expanded. Interested Sri Lankan exporters are encouraged to contact the chamber via to indicate your interest in participating in future event, where the Chamber will register you accordingly.

HE Ravinatha Aryasinha

Reinventing Sri Lanka: SL has welcomed over 1500 Tourists since February, 2021

Sri Lanka reopened its borders to foreign nations on January 21, for the first time since March 2020 after a lapse of nearly 10 months. Despite a decrease of 99.3% in arrivals compared to January 2020, it is accounted that Sri Lanka has welcomed 1682 tourists. Accordingly, Ukraine, Germany, Belarus, China, and Russia have become the top 5 source markets to slowly pick up the tourist industry in SL.

Due to the outbreak of COVID-19 in Sri Lanka, the country’s doors were closed to foreign nations from March 18, 2020. With reopening to the international travelers, Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) plays a vital role in promoting theisland as a safe destination to be explored by foreign nations. Among the key measures taken by them, the “Hello Again” pilot project which was undertaken by the Sri Lankan government on 28 December 2020, and several pioneering programs started simultaneously to kick off the severely stricken tourism industry in Sri Lanka, can be remarked.

The next key attempt was executed by the National Sri Lankan Airlines recouping the Frankfurt-Colombo route by functioning two direct flights per week, to increase the arrival of German tourists.

Moreover, the “bio-bubble” concept functioning in the local tourism sector and offering of a ‘quarantine free experience with curtailed ‘no minimum stay’ for the foreigners are some other aspects of the measures taken. To pick up the Sri Lankan hard-hit tourism industry SLTDA has taken a new measure to further unleash the restraints on protocols, which is the number of mandatory tests required was reduced from three to two with a necessity for being quarantined less than 14 days.

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Holiday Food Drive


During these unprecedented times with many families facing financial crisis, Walter J Company, New Economics for Women, and American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO)/ Labor Community Services (LCS), in collaboration with Sri Lanka Foundation, are hosting a holiday food drive in an effort to reduce the food shortage to families in need during this holiday season.

This will be held on Saturday, December 19th, 2020, from 9:00am to 12:00pm.

The distribution will take place at the Walter J Towers parking lot, on 1930 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90057. All are asked to access the parking lot through Westlake Avenue.

Contactless drive-throughs are welcome; participants will simply drive their car to the designated pop-up tent, and food kits will be delivered to the trunks of the vehicles to ensure COVID safety compliance. Due to safety precautions and COVID regulations, no walk-ups will be permitted.

No eligibility is required.


Raja Edirisuriya appointed new Executive Project Management Director for Port City

Raja Edirisuriya has assumed duties as the Executive Project Management Director for Colombo Port City Development Project.

This appointment was made as per a cabinet decision on a paper submitted by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa as the Minister of Urban Development & Housing. Prior to this appointment, Edirisuriya was serving as the Chairman of the Urban Settlement Development Authority (USDA).

A celebrated civil engineer by profession, Edirisuriya obtained his Bachelor’s degree in civil engineering, specialising in structural engineering from Rutgers University New Jersey, USA. He also went on to acquire his Masters in public administration at University of La Verne, California. As a professionally registered civil engineer in California, he has held the prestigious position of Administrator and City Engineer for almost 16 years with the city of Chino, California.

In early 2006, Edirisuriya was appointed as the chairman of the then ailing construction giant, Sri Lanka State Engineering Corporation (SEC). With his sheer dedication and commitment, along with the supporting staff, this organisation was resurrected within a short period of 9 months. Under Edirisuriya’s chairmanship, the corporation turned a profit of Rs. 103 million at the end of the 2006 financial year. This was the first time that SEC turned a profit since 1981.

In December 2009, on a request made by the then President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Edirisuriya accepted the Chairmanship of Mihin Lanka Airlines in order to resume the company’s operations after it had been grounded for some time.

Edirisuriya has also served as the Sri Lankan Ambassador to Brazil, Peru, Argentina, Chile, Colombia and Surinam, further affirming his stature as a global citizen. During his tenure from 2013 to 2015, he promoted trade and tourism between Latin America and Sri Lanka and also helped facilitate United Nations Humans Rights resolutions among Brazil, Chile and Argentina to support the Sri Lankan government. Additionally, Edirisuriya was instrumental in acquiring a property on behalf of the Sri Lankan Government in Brasilia, Brazil to house the Sri Lankan Embassy.

A philanthropist by nature, he gathered support and funds from the Sri Lankan community in Los Angeles to help construct 39 homes for Tsunami victims in Induruwa. When Edirisuriya was the Vice-President of Ranaviru Foundation USA in 2008, he helped raise Rs. 12 million for disabled Sri Lankan soldiers during the peak of the war. The money was used to build houses for veteran soldiers and their families in Anuradhapura.

Throughout his professional career, Edirisuriya has always been a devoted public servant for his motherland Sri Lanka. This is especially apparent when analysing his professional roles; they have all resulted in the prosperity of Sri Lanka and its people. In his new role as the Executive Project Management Director for Colombo Port City Development Project, it is expected that Edirisuriya will deliver results with the benefit of the nation in mind.

The Colombo Port City Development Project is recently being gazetted as a National Prioritised Project, directly supervised by the Presidential Secretariat with other relevant Ministries. Having completed the initial development stage of reclamation and breakwater construction, Port City is currently at the infrastructure development stage 1, which covers the internal roads and utility connections construction

The Special Economic Zone (SEZ) act, which is the much anticipated regulatory framework for Port City, is expected to be enacted by the Parliament before the end of this year.

A pioneer of the Oxford Covid vaccine – Maheshi N. Ramasamy, who was born in Sri Lanka.

Born in Sri Lanka and having completed his medical education in the United Kingdom, Dr. Maheshi Ramasamy is now world-renowned as the pioneer of the most widely accepted vaccine for the global outbreak of Covid-19.

She holds a bachelor’s degree in medicine from Christ College, Oxford University, and specializes in infectious diseases and clinical medicine at the Oxford and London Medical Institutes.

She is currently a University Lecturer, serving on the NHS Foundation Trust affiliated to the University of Oxford. Accordingly, she serves as the Principal Lecturer at Megan Medical College. She is a Principal Investigator at the Oxford Vaccine Group and an award-winning Senior Clinical Lecturer at the University of Oxford.

It is no coincidence that Maheshi N Ramasamy, was first mentioned in a research paper on the ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccine, also known as the Oxford Covid vaccine, by the world – renowned medical journal The Lancet.

Maheshi Ramasamy is the daughter of two scientists. Her mother is Prof. Samaranayake Ramasamy. An alumnus of Visakha College, Colombo, Samaranayake received a first class honors degree in Zoology from the University of Colombo and later came to the University of Cambridge on a Commonwealth Scholarship. He then became the first Sri Lankan to receive a Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge. She married Ranjan Ramasamy, a Tamil scientist who had come to Cambridge University from Sri Lanka for postgraduate studies. They also get married in Colombo.

It was a collaboration between two scientists, who became a couple of internationally renowned scientists in entomology and immunology. After studying at the University of Cambridge, they became lecturers at the University of Daman in Saudi Arabia and later came to Colombo to give birth to their daughter Maheshi Ramasamy. They later worked in Nairobi, Kenya, and were also lecturers at the Jaffna Medical College in the early 1980s.

He later worked at the University of San Diego in the United States and Queen’s University in Australia. Prof. Samaranayake Ramasamy maintained his relationship with Sri Lanka and in 1999 became the Secretary General of the Sri Lanka Association for the Advancement of Science (SLAAS). As a celebrity, she died in Kandy, Sri Lanka in 2016, according to an article in the Sunday Leader, which said she was extremely proud of her only daughter, Maheshi. Her selection to the Cambridge University Medical Faculty is said to be a dream come true for Professor Ramasamy.

Today, Maheshi Ramasamy, a mother of three, is gaining international recognition for her research on the Oxford Covid-19 vaccine. We are publishing these details about her family history to emphasize that we should be wholeheartedly proud of this Oxford student because of her Sri Lankan origin.

Her Sinhala-Tamil fusion reminds us again and again that Sri Lanka is a multi-ethnic, multi-religious country.

Therefore, we as a country should not be proud of her mother being Sinhalese, her father being Tamil and so on. Because she is a Sri Lankan daughter of a Sri Lankan mother and father.