The United States has emerged as a major economic partner and an important stakeholder in Sri Lanka's economic development, Minister of Foreign Affairs Mangala Samaraweera said.
Addressing the National Press Club in Washington DC Thursday, Minister Samaraweera, who is on an official visit to the U.S., said the superpower remains the single largest export market for Sri Lanka as 23 percent of Sri Lanka's total exports are absorbed by the U.S.
He noted that his country continues to benefit from the trade concessions under the System of Generalized Preferences (GSP).
The United States is the second largest foreign direct investor in Sri Lanka with over 70 American companies based in Sri Lanka, Minister Samaraweera noted.
"The United States is therefore an important stakeholder in our country's economic development," the Sri Lankan Minister said.
Highlighting that Sri Lanka is strategically located in the Indian Ocean and has invested considerable resources in expanding facilities at its maritime ports with the aim of becoming a major trans-shipment hub, the Minister said the Sri Lanka - US partnership must take into account the island's strategic location.
Speaking on the government's commitment to broaden and strengthen ties between Washington and Colombo, the Minister said the values and ideals of democracy are the common thread that binds the two countries.
The Minister said his visit to Washington so soon after the election was with the objective of briefing the U.S. government on the road map which the new government in Sri Lanka has drawn up to implement the pledges given to the Sri Lankan people during the election.
He stressed that the government of President Maithripala Sirisena is deeply committed to strengthening democracy, independence of the judiciary, respect for the rule of law and ensuring that all communities in Sri Lanka enjoy the dividend of peace that has dawned in the country.
Minister Samaraweera said Sri Lanka can learn from the history of the United States which has shown resilience and strength over the course of its history to rebound from any setback.
"We believe that Sri Lanka can learn from your country's history and that the opportunity is before us to take our country forward to a new era of peace and prosperity. In this journey we consider the United States as an important partner," the Foreign Minister said.
The Minister said he had a very fruitful meeting with the Secretary of State John Kerry earlier in the day and the close interaction at all levels between the two countries will help deepen and expand the partnership.
He said Sri Lanka recognizes the goodwill and friendship that has been expressed by leaders and policy thinkers in the U.S. towards the country and the Sri Lankan government is keen to build upon "this manifest goodwill" and hopes to continue the dialogue with the U.S. which commenced with his visit to take "our relationship to greater heights."
"As Sri Lanka moves forward on a new course that it is charting out for all its people, based on good governance, rule of law, justice and equality for all in the framework of a united country, what we need are friends - to support us and to stand by us to build a peaceful, prosperous and secure Sri Lanka. I am more than certain that we already have one such friend in the United States," the Sri Lankan Minister said.