American firms based in Armenia call for U.S. Trade Agreement

A broad range of American companies doing business in Armenia, including Microsoft, FedEx, and NASDAQ, have, in letters shared with the U.S. Embassy, called upon the Obama Administration to take concrete action prioritizing the growth of U.S.-Armenia economic relations through the negotiation of a bilateral Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA).

These firms employ thousands in Armenia and world-wide, generate tens of millions of dollars in revenues, and are engines of progress, friendship, and cooperation for both nations.  Among those joining with Microsoft, FedEx, and NASDAQ in petitioning for a TIFA were: Marriott, Ameria Banking Group, Prudence Legal Advisory and Counseling, Grant Thornton, Baker Tilley Armenia, Synergy, Tufenkian Heritage Hotels, Altacode, Leda Campus LLC, Levon Travel, Unicomp, Synopsys, Megerian Carpet, National Instruments, Mentor Graphics, First Mortgage, Geoteam, Hylink, LC Distribution, and Linkgard Systems.

The Armenian government has long been on record requesting that its U.S. partners join with them in negotiating a TIFA, as well as a much-needed Double Tax Treaty.  The American Chamber of Commerce in Armenia, through the active leadership of its Chairman, Edward Mouradian and professional support from its Executive Director Diana Gaziyan, has played a vital role in giving voice to the public policy priorities of the U.S. business community in Armenia.  Many members of the U.S. Congress have expressed their support for a U.S.-Armenia TIFA, as has the Armenian National Committee of America.  President Obama, for his part, promised, during his 2008 campaign, to foster expanded trade with Armenia.  U.S. Ambassador to Armenia, John Heffern, during his confirmation process, also spoke of his interest in expanding the U.S.-Armenia trade relationship.

Beyond reinforcing the strong cultural bonds between the American and Armenian peoples, these corporations, in their letters, pointed out that the creation of a TIFA platform for ongoing bilateral economic dialogue would help facilitate a broad range of benefits to both the United States and Armenia, including:

– Improving the investment climate, identifying priority areas for growth, and building trade capacity

– Addressing regional trade issues, including the special hardships faced by Armenia due to the blockades imposed on its borders by Turkey and Azerbaija

– Streamlining customs systems, and increasing the transparency of governmental processes related to imports and exports

– Discussing the effectiveness of current programs in Armenia of the U.S. Export-Import Bank, Overseas Private Investment Corporation, and U.S. Trade and Development Agency

– Expanding agricultural trade and investment

– Growing the level of trade in services, including banking, insurance, and tourism

– Promoting Diasporan trade and investment, with a special focus on expanding Armenian American trade and investment partnerships with Armenia

– Improving Armenia’s use of U.S. Generalized System of Preferences benefits

– Addressing any outstanding problems in the area of intellectual property rights

– Exploring ways to deepen future U.S.-Armenia trade and investment

In their letters, these firms stressed their interest in building upon a TIFA platform through additional bilateral accords, notably a Double Tax Treaty, a Social Security Agreement, and, ultimately, a Free Trade Agreement.

Copies of the letters, addressed to President Obama, were handed to Ambassador Heffern today during his meetings with Armenian American organizations and community members in the Los Angeles area.  Ambassador Heffern is participating in a series of community outreach meetings and town halls in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Boston and New York.

The level of U.S. leadership in promoting trade and investment with Armenia was the subject of a recent, widely-circulated Asbarez editorial: No Effort or Progress on Fostering U.S.-Armenia Trade and Investment:

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