NCE and Lankan US Embassy to boost Lanka’s access to US market | Sunday Observer

NCE and Lankan US Embassy to boost Lanka’s access to US market

25 April, 2021

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

At a webinar recently, over 40 Sri Lankan exporters, engaged with 10 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. It was agreed to conduct sector specific dialogues, where the Sri Lankan exporters will be provided the opportunity to engage in discussion with the business community of the particular sector, to foster mutually beneficial trading relationships.

A separate event is proposed as a dialogue to enhance long-term trade relationships between the two countries. 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 said 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 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 discussion that followed led by Chairman of the NEC, Shiham Marikkar, focused on obstacles faced by importers when importing from Sri Lanka and the need to adapt to 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.

Sri Lankan professionals residing and doing business in USA shared insights regarding the current market conditions and the opportunities available.

The discussion also focused on the prospects for collaboration between the NCE and the reactivated US-Sri Lanka Chamber of Commerce. Dilan Ariyawansa of the US-Sri Lanka Chamber, elaborated on the role they proposed to play in the future in the furtherance of two-way trade and investment between the US and Sri Lanka. Some of the key highlights of the discussion were:

* The US is a highly competitive market due to the size of the market and the prominence in the world economy, therefore the businesses often dominate the trading terms. It is important for exporters to understand this background when negotiating their business, and be well prepared to face challenges.

The Customs system and the import structure is complex. Importers operate separately from the vendors.

• Importers face challenges when importing from Sri Lanka due to issues arising in quality, commitment and seriousness of exporters. Lack of knowledge on the regulations in the US market was also highlighted.

• Discussing the GSP scheme, it came to light that the US GSP for Sri Lanka has expired on December 31, 2020 and currently the US Congress is in the process of deciding the next phase of GSP Scheme for all countries. 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 this year.

More people prefer online shopping to physical stores and USA is a price sensitive market with high competition from China and Bangladesh. However, 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, unlike in the past.

• 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.

The 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 three to 10 days generally. For exporters hoping to expand in e-commerce, the 19 to 20 days’ transit time has to be considered and for exporters of smaller shipments, especially LCLs, it is important to select transit locations wisely to reap the best benefits of market opportunity. The NCE is coordinating with all Sri Lankan Missions and their trade officers to create awareness on new market needs. Plans have been made to conduct a series of webinars, to provide valuable informative insights to the exporters and connect them to stakeholders.

The Chamber invites exporters to team up with the chamber’s initiative to expand market access.

Interested exporters could contact the chamber via [email protected].