Sherman Presses Obama Administration on U.S. – Armenia Aid and Trade Priorities

ANCA National and Regional Board Members and constituents meet with Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) during the ANCA Fly-In for Peace, Prosperity and Justice on March 15/16
ANCA National and Regional Board Members and constituents meet with Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) during the ANCA Fly-In for Peace, Prosperity and Justice on March 15/16

ANCA National and Regional Board Members and constituents meet with Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) during the ANCA Fly-In for Peace, Prosperity and Justice on March 15/16

Watch Rep. Sherman Question Treasury Secretary Lew on Double-Tax Treaty; USAID Administrator Smith on Aid to Artsakh, Armenia, and Syrian Armenians

WASHINGTON– Congressman Brad Sherman (D-CA), a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, has, in the past week, pressed several Obama Administration officials – including Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew and USAID Administrator Gayle Smith – for answers about proposed cuts in aid to Artsakh, foot-dragging on a U.S.-Armenia Double Tax Treaty, and the level of support being provided to help Armenia support refugees from Syria, reported the Armenian National Committee of America.

In a U.S. House Financial Services Committee hearing Tuesday, Rep. Sherman cited the importance of a U.S.-Armenia Tax treaty to build upon ongoing U.S. assistance to Armenia, and pressed for the negotiation of such an accord. Responding to Secretary Lew’s assertion that there there is no need for a Double Tax Treaty with Armenia, Rep. Sherman described the situation as a “chicken and egg” scenario, stating, “You don’t get the business investment, because you don’t have the tax treaty. Then you don’t need the tax treaty because you don’t have the business investment. Given that this Congress has provided well over a billion dollars in aid to Armenia, it would be seem that having one member of your staff to achieve the same objectives would be appropriate.” Rep. Sherman and Secretary Lew agreed to work together to review the matter.

“The ANCA thanks Representative Sherman for pressing Secretary Lew about the lack of a U.S.-Armenia Double Tax Treaty, and, more broadly, for his consistently principled and powerful leadership in supporting the views and values of Americans of Armenian heritage and all friends of Armenia,” said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. “We echo the points he raised today and join with him in working to remove a key barrier to the growth of U.S.-Armenia trade and investment. A Double Tax Treaty would strengthen our bilateral economic relationship, reinforce the longstanding bonds of friendship between the American and Armenian peoples, foster economic growth and opportunity in both nations, and provide Armenia with greater strategic options in dealing with regional powers.”

Calls from Congress and the business sector continue to grow with Triada Studio and PicsArt recently joining global business leaders Microsoft, FedEx, NASDAQ, Marriott, Grant Thornton, and others that have been on record for years supporting stronger bilateral economic relations efforts, including through a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA), which was adopted in May 2015, and a modern Double Tax treaty.

Other firms in support of these measures include Ameria Banking Group, Prudence Legal Advisory and Counseling, 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.

Representatives Judy Chu (D-Calif.) and Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) have appealed to Lew to begin negotiations for a new double tax treaty to address these concerns.

In August 2015, senior ANCA officials met with U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew in Washington, D.C., to press for a new U.S.-Armenia Double Tax Treaty. A grassroots ANCA online campaign urging Secretary Lew to begin negotiations with Armenia is available at anca.org/trade.

Expanding Aid to Artsakh; Assisting Resettlement of Syrian Refugees in Armenia
During a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing with U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Gayle Smith last week, Rep. Sherman cited the importance of continued aid for Karabakh, expanded aid to help Syrian refugees seeking a new life in Armenia and targeted aid for the predominantly Armenian Samtskhe-Javakheti region of Georgia.

Citing U.S. assistance for demining efforts, Rep. Sherman asked Administrator Smith why aid to Karabakh had decreased to $1.5 million. Administrator Smith noted that additional humanitarian assistance had been sent to the region in the past and both Rep. Sherman and Smith agreed to work together to help meet additional humanitarian needs there. Rep. Sherman went on to express specific concern about the low levels of U.S. assistance to Syrian refugees in Armenia and asked Administrator Smith for a report on the funds delivered to Armenia to date for this purpose.

ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian welcomed Rep. Sherman’s leadership on this effort, noting:

“We want to thank Congressman Brad Sherman for questioning USAID Administrator Gayle Smith about diminishing aid levels to Nagorno Karabakh and encouraging her to continue to advance the cause of peace and meet pressing humanitarian needs through this assistance program.”

“Representative Sherman’s pioneering ‘Sherman Amendment’ back in 1997 put in motion Congressional support for a direct U.S. aid program that has, since then, provided tens of millions of dollars in humanitarian assistance to Nagorno Karabakh. He continues to be a forceful leader for this crucial investment in peace, and a thoughtful advocate for all our community’s priorities, including aid to Syrian Armenians and targeted support for Samtskhe-Javakheti.”

Rep. Sherman joined more than 30 of his colleagues this week in cosigning a letter to U.S. House appropriators highlighting these Armenia and Artsakh foreign aid priorities. Last week, Rep. Sherman met with ANCA national and regional board members and constituents about both Double Tax Treaty related issues and Armenia foreign aid priorities during the ANCA national advocacy Fly-In for Peace, Prosperity and Justice.

Participating in the ANCA Fly-In was Vardan Tadevosyan, the Director of the Lady Cox Rehabilitation Center in Stepanakert, Karabakh, who shared the urgency of U.S. assistance to help the expansion of the facility to meet the needs of disabled adults and children throughout the region. The ANCA has listed the Lady Cox Rehabilitation Center as among its top Artsakh aid priorities in Congressional testimony submitted to both the House and Senate.

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