Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo traveled to Colombo, Sri Lanka, October 27-28, 2020, where he met with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena. The Secretary highlighted Sri Lanka’s importance as an Indo-Pacific partner on security and economic issues. He also emphasized our commitment to Sri Lanka’s sovereignty and encouraged progress on governance and reconciliation priorities.
“Our relationship is based on common democratic values, and the United States steadfastly supports Sri Lanka’s vibrant democracy and its sovereignty.” – Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo on the U.S.-Sri Lanka relationship, February 3, 2020
A Key Partnership in the Indo-Pacific Region
The United States and Sri Lanka partnership is based on shared values of respect for democratic governance, rule of law, human rights, including religious freedom, and agreement on the need for an open and resilient Indo-Pacific region where all countries can prosper under a rules-based international order. Sri Lanka’s leaders have outlined their vision for the country’s regional engagement that reflects its location at the nexus of the Indo-Pacific and seizes the opportunities that this unique position presents. We fully expect that Sri Lanka will fulfill its pledges to take meaningful, concrete steps to promote accountability, justice, and reconciliation. This is the only way that all Sri Lankans may contribute to and benefit from a safe, secure, and prosperous future.
A History of Transparent Assistance
From Sri Lanka’s independence in 1948 up through the present, the United States has provided development assistance, security cooperation, educational exchanges, and mutually beneficial trade and investment. Our assistance to Sri Lanka comes in the form of grants, not loans, and helps to promote Sri Lanka’s autonomy and attract high-quality, commercially viable, and sustainable projects and private-sector investment. The State Department is providing $1.8 million of new counterterrorism assistance programs to help Sri Lankans bring the surviving perpetrators of the 2019 Easter bombing to justice, deter terrorist travel, and support counterterrorism financing prosecutions. In addition, the United States has provided more than $26 million in health assistance to Sri Lanka over the last 20 years and $6 million to Sri Lanka in COVID-19 assistance. The United States has also provided more than $74 million to rid Sri Lanka of post-conflict explosive contamination and landmine hazards. We continue to support Sri Lanka’s economic and democratic development through foreign assistance and direct partnership with organizations throughout the country. Since Sri Lanka’s independence, we have supported the country with more than $2 billion in assistance.
Strong Cooperation on Indo-Pacific Security
U.S.-Sri Lanka security cooperation encompasses a variety of joint exercises and training that has developed the skills and interoperability of both countries. This cooperation addresses our mutual security interests, such as humanitarian assistance and disaster response and maritime domain awareness. Through the Temporary Cargo Transfer Initiative, the United States contracts Sri Lankan services and goods to support American vessels that often transit the Indo-Pacific’s busy sea lanes. In August 2018, the United States donated a former U.S. Coast Guard cutter to the Sri Lanka Navy. The SLNS Gajabahu, the largest vessel in Sri Lanka’s fleet, has increased the Sri Lankan Navy’s ability to patrol its territorial waters and exclusive economic zone. In spring 2020, SLNS Gajabahuand SLNS Samudura, another ship donated by the U.S., were involved in the interdiction of caches of heroin and crystal methamphetamine totaling $33 million. Both vessels have also supported maritime search and rescue activities and helped in controlling the recent fire on the MTS New Diamond. Sri Lanka has proven itself a capable and responsible Indo-Pacific partner, especially in the maritime domain, and we want to continue our security relationship to ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific together.
Longstanding Trade Ties
The United States is Sri Lanka’s single largest export market and Sri Lanka’s largest trading partner. In 2019, Sri Lanka exported more than $2.7 billion of goods to the United States, of which over $1.8 billion of which were ready-made garments. The United States also views Sri Lanka as an important customer for American-made goods. The U.S. exports goods into many sectors of the Sri Lankan economy, from advanced machinery to agricultural products. Both the United States and Sri Lankan governments are working to expand American exports and investment into Sri Lanka. The U.S. government is proud to assist American companies conducting business with Sri Lanka. We will continue to promote policies and practices in Sri Lanka that create fair and transparent economic conditions for all, which will support Sri Lanka’s economic development and growth.
Read more about Secretary Pompeo’s October 28 trip to Sri Lanka here.
Read more about U.S.-Sri Lanka relations here.
Read the Secretary’s remarks during a joint press availability with Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena here.
About the Author: Carrie Green is serving as the Public Diplomacy Desk Officer for Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Maldives, and Nepal, in the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.