New opportunities, ancient routes: Armenia as a gateway to Eurasian and Iranian markets

Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian participated in the Armenian-Italian business forum in Rome. Addressing the forum, Minister Nalbandian presented the investment opportunities of the country, the reforms implemented to improve the business climate, integration processes, etc. The Minister’s full speech is provided below:

I am glad to participate at the opening of the Armenian-Italian Business Forum, organised in the margins of the meeting of Intergovernmental commission.

As the title of this forum rightly indicates, the Armenian – Italian trade and business interests have an ancient history that especially flourished during the medieval period between the Cilician Armenian Kingdom and Genoa, Venice and Pisa. As Venetian famous traveller and merchant Marco Polo wrote in his book, the trade routes from Europe to Asia passed through the port of Ayas in Cilicia that was kind of a hub for trade and cultural exchanges between the East and the West.

These ancient, traditional connections have gained new momentum since Armenia’s independence. Within the past 25 years we have witnessed steady expansion of our interstate relations with involvement of more and more sectors of economy.

The convening of the Armenian-Italian intergovernmental commission and the organisation of Business forum will definitely open new horizons in our economic ties, contributing to deepening of our partnership in different areas. Obviously, there is a huge potential for that and the Government of Armenia stands ready to do its utmost in facilitating the bonds between the business communities of our countries.

Today, Armenia is a country of opportunities – modern, educated, hard-working human resources, with a proximity to major markets and participation in different integration formats, application of European standards and business practices. The presence of significant Armenian diaspora worldwide, and in Europe in particular, essentially contributes in strengthening of our trade and economic relations, keeping our country closer to the international markets, sometimes even connecting those markets through Armenia.

The significant reforms have been conducted during the last decade in order to improve business climate, to make Armenia more favorable destination for foreign investments. These efforts of the Government of Armenia have resulted in better ranking of Armenia on different international reports. The World Bank 2017 Doing Business Report ranked Armenia the 38th among 190 countries. Moreover, Armenia has been placed the 9th with regard to the simplicity of starting business. As for the Economic Freedom Index of the Heritage Foundation, Armenia is currently the 33rd among 180 countries, having improved the position by 21 notches compared to the previous year.

Armenia is leveraging regional preferential trading arrangements with a view to broadening regional and global integration. We provide guarantees to investors and protection of foreign investments, as well as a number of advantages and privileges. The foreign investors are subject to general legislation, which provides them not only with non-discriminatory treatment, but also envisages a number of privileges for them. Among these privileges are property ownership, right of companies registered in Armenia to acquire land, unrestricted access to any sector and geographic location within country, free repatriation of property and profits, unlimited currency exchange on market rates, etc. Besides, Armenia has bilateral treaties on investment promotion and protection with 41 countries, including Italy.

We have adopted a new tax code that provides a number of benefits to businesses and investors in Armenia and simplifies the procedures of tax administration bodies.

Armenia registered high growth rates in information and communication technologies, innovation, precise engineering and relevant research areas of capacity building sectors aiming at strengthening its regional leading role in this regard. To give more momentum to the development of Information and Communication Technologies we provide tax privileges to the start-ups exempting them from profit tax and levying only 10% tax on income. As a result in recent years we have seen 25% average increase in the field of ICT. At the intergovernmental commission meeting we have already highlighted a number of sectors, with advantageous prospects of cooperation, including energy, transport, machinery, agriculture, food processing, science, education, health, culture.

Tourism represents another promising field of cooperation. Armenia’s religious heritage bears special importance as the first Christian nation of the world. Last year His Holiness Pope Francis visited Armenia in his words as a pilgrimage to the first nation to receive the Gospel of Jesus.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The current economic policy of the government is aimed at expanding geography of exports. Armenia enjoys the EU GSP+ preferential trade regime. The GSP regime is implemented with Canada, Switzerland, Japan and Norway. Armenia has free trade agreements in force with members of the Commonwealth of Independent States and neighboring Georgia.

The Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement with the European Union will greatly contribute to expanding EU-Armenia trade and economic relations. The Agreement has already been initialed and we are going to sign it with the European Union in November. In January 2015 Armenia joined the Eurasian Economic Union that opens new opportunities for cooperation. Armenia can play a bridge role in utilizing the opportunities and providing its services and investment tools as a platform for trade activities between EAEU and EU member states, particularly, Italy.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I wish you fruitful deliberations and productive outcome that will pave the way for further enhancing and deepening of our cooperation.

We are looking forward to the next meeting that we will be happy to host in Armenia to take stock of our deliberations and review the results.

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