Representatives of the Department of State, the Armenian Embassy, and the Armenian American community shared views and explored practical paths toward expanded U.S.-Armenia bilateral trade and investment, at a roundtable talk hosted this week by the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).
The town-hall format meeting, held in the Aramian Conference Room of the ANCA’s Washington headquarters, was opened by Executive Director Aram Hamparian, who noted that the purpose of the roundtable, and the broader challenge before American friends of Armenia, was to pursue practical and productive avenues to act on the existing consensus behind expanded U.S.-Armenia economic relations. Hamparian cited the broad range of supportive stakeholders in the process, ranging from the U.S. and Armenian governments to the Armenian American community and a broad array of American companies doing business in Armenia.
ANCA Trade and Investment Policy Specialist Nora Khanarian, Ph.D., in a presentation outlining the current state of economic relations and setting forth possible future scenarios for U.S.-Armenia relations, stressed that there are a variety of ways in which these relations can be strengthened in parallel – at the government, business, and individual levels – each building upon the foundation that has progressively been put in place since Armenia’s independence. She added that, despite the challenges of doing business in any emerging market, a stronger partnership would nurture the positive trends in Armenia over the past 10 years. This progress would help move Armenia from a reliance on aid towards trade, transitioning into one of the freest economies in the region, and demonstrating competitive advantages in specific sectors such as IT and pharmaceuticals-with mutual benefits to both the U.S. and Armenia.
Speaking on behalf of the Department of State, Justin Friedman, the Director of the Office of Caucasus Affairs and Regional Conflicts, voiced the U.S. government’s interest in mutually beneficial expanded bilateral economic relations with Armenia. Friedman, who is responsible for managing the full spectrum of U.S. relations with Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia, reviewed the full array of U.S. efforts with Armenia to deepen economic ties, and underscored the importance of the United States partnering to help make Armenia competitive internationally. While noting positive third-party indicators, he also addressed a number of issues the U.S. government views as meaningful obstacles to improved commercial relations, highlighting specific areas in which the United States would like to see critical reforms. Among these were increased transparency, improved fairness in taxation, and better enforcement of contracts.
During the discussion portion of the program, Andranik Hovhannisyan, Ph.D., the Armenian Embassy’s Counselor, stressed Armenia’s interest in expanded bilateral economic ties, and noted that Armenia’s progress in the area of economic reform has been reflected in positive ratings by an array of respected institutions, such as the World Bank, Wall Street Journal, Heritage Foundation, and Freedom House. He reviewed Armenia’s economic engagement strategy, highlighting the European Union’s broad economic engagement with Armenia, and expressing support for a similarly robust trade and investment relationship with the United States.
Among those offering insights, sharing suggestions, and asking questions were former U.S. Ambassador to Armenia, John Marshall Evans, as well as Armenian Americans and friends of Armenia working professionally in the Congress, the Administration, think tanks, advocacy groups, and elsewhere throughout Washington, DC’s public policy community. The program, characterized by open discourse and a robust back-and-forth exchange of ideas, lasted approximately two hours.
In recent weeks, the ANCA – along with the American Chamber of Commerce in Armenia and major corporations, including Microsoft, FedEx, and NASDAQ – has called on the U.S. government to respond favorably to the Armenian government’s longstanding interest in negotiating a badly-needed U.S.-Armenia Trade and Investment Framework Agreement and a long-overdue Double Tax Treaty.