YEREVAN (ARKA)—U.S. investments in Armenia’s real sector economy since 1991 after independence from the Soviet Union have reached $356 million, Armenian Minister of Economy Karen Chshmaritayn said today at the first meeting of the bilateral U.S.-Armenia Council on Trade and Investments in Yerevan. According to Chshmarityan, $215 million of that amount are direct investments.
“Investors from the U.S. have appreciated Armenia’s capabilities in the development of services, tourism, information technology, and consulting for a long time. Direct U.S. investments into these sectors from January to June 2015 amounted to $1.8 million,” Chshmarityan said.
Chshmarityan said that today’s meeting would discuss administrative barriers to trade, and other specific needs, like sanitary standards of agricultural goods. Representatives will also try to identify problems in the field of intellectual property protection and in the facilitation of the movement of goods and capital to expand trade and investment between the U.S. and Armenia.
“The government of Armenia has created quite attractive conditions for entrepreneurs and investors. The aim of the ongoing reforms in the field of entrepreneurship and investment is to create a level playing field for local and foreign entrepreneurs and investors, and a relevant legal field,” Chshmarityan said.
Chshmarityan said that the government has already developed a roadmap and an investment agenda. The next step is to develop incentives to encourage foreign investments. The planned introduction of an ombudsman for the institute of business will contribute to increased confidence for businesses and investors, Chshmarityan said.
The U.S.-Armenia Council on Trade and Investment was established in May 2015 under a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) between the governments of Armenia and the U.S. for further strengthening of Armenian-American economic cooperation, as well as the expansion of turnover of products and services between the two countries.
The Armenian delegation was headed by Chshmaritian, while the U.S. delegation was led by Elizabeth Hafner, Deputy Assistant Trade Representative for the U.S.
The U.S. delegation included high-level representatives from the U.S. Departments of Commerce and State, as well as members of the trade representative’s office. The meeting was also attended by U.S. Ambassador to Armenia Richard Mills.
From the Armenian side, the meeting was attended by Deputy Minister of Economy Garegin Melkonyan, Deputy Minister of Labor and Social Affairs Arayik Petrosyan, representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Economy, Finance, Agriculture, the Development Foundation of Armenia, Chamber of Commerce, the Union of Manufacturers and Businessmen (Employers) of Armenia, the American Chamber of Commerce in Armenia (AmCham) and other relevant institutions.
Addressing the council, Chshmaritian said that, “Armenia is ready to become a center of interests for [the] international business community, adding traditional Armenian hospitality to the favorable conditions for business activities.”
“In this context, I would propose to consider the opportunities to establish headquarters of international companies in Armenia, especially considering that U.S. investors have already appreciated the opportunities of Armenia, particularly in the spheres of tourism, information technologies, [and] consulting.”
“By identifying and addressing these technical issues, we will deepen the trade relationship between the U.S. and Armenia,” said Ambassador Mills.
In addition to the bilateral meeting, a roundtable discussion was held with interested private sector stakeholders. This was the first such meeting, with plans to continue them annually.
“Business leaders and the private sector play an important role in policy and regulatory decision-making,” Mills said. “This roundtable discussion helped provide an opportunity for stakeholders to consult on the on-going trade discussions.”
A joint action plan outlining further steps for promoting mutual trade and investment, as well as expanding areas of cooperation is expected to be adopted at the outcome of the meeting.