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Fallout From Tsunami: Sri Lanka to Ask U.S. For Breaks on Tariffs

Looking to rebuild its economy, Sri Lanka, where 30,000 people were killed by the Dec. 26 tsunami, plans to petition the U.S. for trade breaks.

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The bigger question going forward is whether Sri Lankan manufacturers will continue to remain competitive with manufacturers in other countries, particularly China and India. U.S. importers acknowledged that the local industry faces major hurdles, but said it should be able to compete.

“We still believe that countries like Sri Lanka and Indonesia will be able to compete against China for a lot of reasons,” said Peter McGrath, president of purchasing at J.C. Penney Co. “No one wants to put all their business in China.”

Jeanne Atkinson, a consultant who has worked on apparel-related projects in Sri Lanka with the U.S. Agency for International Development, said she hoped that U.S. importers would realize the role their orders could play in the rebuilding of the devastated country.

“The economy really flips back to our support and the big users,” Atkinson said. “The U.S. has the major export dollars now. That’s where the support has to come. It’s going to be devastating unless U.S. companies just hang in there.”

— With contributions from Karyn Monget

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