The Hon. Alexander Downer, MP
The Hon. Alexander Downer, MP

Media Release

FA141 - 14 October 2004 

Diplomatic Appointment: Ambassador to Sri Lanka

I have today announced the appointment of Dr Greg French as Australia's High Commissioner to the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, with concurrent accreditation to the Republic of the Maldives. Dr French will succeed Mr David Binns who has been High Commissioner since January 2002. Dr French is expected to take up his appointment in January 2005.

Australia and Sri Lanka share close bonds of friendship reinforced by our common membership of the Commonwealth, and extensive people-to-people links. Australia hosts a substantial Sri Lankan community that has made a significant contribution to our multicultural society and the bilateral relationship.

Australia's relationship with Sri Lanka is also underpinned by strong commercial ties. Australia is one of Sri Lanka's largest sources of foreign investment, with investments totalling approximately $600 million. Two-way trade is valued at more than $250 million. Food and agricultural products are Australia's main merchandise exports. Tea as well as textile, clothing and footwear products are our main imports. Education is a growing export to Sri Lanka, with Australia the most favoured destination for Sri Lankans seeking tertiary studies abroad.

Australia welcomed the signing of an indefinite ceasefire agreement in February 2002 between the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and has provided practical support to peace-building in Sri Lanka through our aid program. Australia's aid program to Sri Lanka supports conflict-affected communities including in areas of the North and East and selected vulnerable groups in the dry zone and other areas of need in the rest of the country. The 2004-05 budget increased official development assistance to Sri Lanka by $6.8m to an estimated $23m . Regrettably, the negotiating process in Sri Lanka has remained stalled since April 2003.

Dr French is a career officer with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and is currently Assistant Secretary, Legal Branch. Other appointments include Director, Sea Law, Environmental Law & Antarctic Policy Section (2001-02); and Executive Officer, Legal Branch (1990-93).

Overseas, Dr French has served as Business Development Manager of the Australian Pavilion at Expo 2000 in Hanover and as First Secretary in Bonn (1994-98).

Dr French has a doctorate and a masters degree in International Law and Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Laws degrees. He is married with one son.

Media inquiries:  Chris Kenny (Ministerial) 02 6277 7500/Julie McDonald (DFAT)) 02 6261 1555

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