California, Armenia Sign Memorandum of Cooperation

California Governor Gavin Newsom and Prime Nikol Pashinyan meet in New York on Sept. 24
California Governor Gavin Newsom and Prime Nikol Pashinyan meet in New York on Sept. 24

California Governor Gavin Newsom and Prime Nikol Pashinyan meet in New York on Sept. 24

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, who arrived in New York late Monday, met Tuesday with California Governor Gavin Newsom, who is attending Climate Week events, and ahead of a substantive discussion, a memorandum of cooperation was signed between the State of California and Armenia.

The memorandum of cooperation was signed by Governor Newsom and Armenia’s Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan. Present at the signing ceremony were Zareh Sinanyan, Armenia’s High Commissioner for Diaspora Affairs, and California State Senator Anthony Portantino, who is spearheading legislation to re-establish the California-Armenia Trade Office, as well as Armenia’s Ambassador to the U.S. Varuzhan Nersesyan and Armenia’s Consul General in Los Angeles Armen Baibourtian.

Tuesday’s meeting followed a Pashinyan’s visit to Los Angeles where he met with Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis, Governor Newsom’s International Affairs and Trade Development Representative.

“California is fortunate to share in the rich heritage of the Armenian people,” said Governor Newsom. “This agreement builds on our strong ties and will create new opportunities for entrepreneurs from both California and Armenia.”

“California’s deep and longstanding friendship with Armenia has contributed to economic prosperity, inspired opportunities for students, and enriched our collective cultural values,” said Lieutenant Governor Kounalakis.

“I am very pleased that Governor Newsom has a bold, vibrant vision for California in regard to international trade and I am extremely honored to have witnessed the historic MOU and Trade Agreement signing with the Governor and the Prime Minister,” said Senator Portantino. “Formal trade relations between California and Armenia has long been a priority of the Armenian American community in California. I am also particularly excited to have helped launch this administration’s first official trade effort.”

Through the agreement, California will establish a Trade and Services Desk in Armenia to be utilized by delegations and California’s trade representative for Europe and Eurasia from the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development, to encourage trade and investment by Californian and Armenian businesses. The Trade and Services Desk will foster economic cooperation and development by assisting entrepreneurs in connecting with their counterparts to engage in various trade and commercial activities.

The Governor also acknowledged the contributions of Assemblymember Adrin Nazarian who, since serving at the then California Trade and Commerce Agency in 2000, has worked tirelessly to establish a California trade presence in Armenia.

Following the signing ceremony, Pashinyan and Newsom met with relations between California and Armenia high on the agenda, according to the prime minister’s press office.

The two leaders praised the memorandum and expressed that it will give new impetus to advancing relations between Armenia and California and will enable a long list of projects that can bolster cooperation and investment.

California Governor Gavin Newsom and Armenia's Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan sign a Memorandum of Cooperation on Sept. 24 in New York

California Governor Gavin Newsom and Armenia’s Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan sign a Memorandum of Cooperation on Sept. 24 in New York

Pashinyan said that California is home to the largest Armenian population in the Diaspora, adding that the California, as a leader in American innovation and technological advancement, can be an attractive and strategic partner for Armenia.

“Having diligently and persistently worked with California’s top elected officials to institutionalize bilateral relations between California and Armenia, most recently through our Legislative Trip to Armenia with Lt. Governor Eleni Kounalakis and our follow-up meeting with Governor Gavin Newsom in Sacramento, the ANCA-WR welcomes today’s historic signing of a memorandum of cooperation between the State of California as the fifth largest economy in the world and the Republic of Armenia,” said Nora Hovsepian, the chairperson of the Armenian National Committee of America-Western Region.

“We are confident that this formalization of areas of cooperation ranging from IT to agriculture to education and cultural exchange will greatly benefit Armenia’s growing economy and trade and will encourage Californians to view Armenia as a strategic and able partner in areas of common interest and resources. Our ANCA-WR Local Chapters will also continue to be instrumental in forging sister city relationships between their own cities and cities, towns and villages in Armenia, and we were proud to see the this agreement encourage these efforts as well. We look forward to continuing our work to further strengthen this bilateral relationship moving forward,” added Hovsepian.

The prime minister also briefed Newsom about the developments since last year’s popular movement, which he said have set the basis for reforms and fundamental changes. He told Newsom that Armenia was experiencing dynamic economic growth, with the government taking concrete steps to weed out corruption and expunge monopolies to create a better climate for investment.

Newsom welcomed Pashinyan’s visit to the United States, saying that the California Armenian community has played an immense role in the development of the state, as well as in strengthening U.S.-Armenia relations. The governor said that strengthening and developing relations with Armenia is very important for California and expressed hope that the cooperation agreement will further facilitate mutually beneficial projects.

The two also discussed the deepening of trade relations between Armenia and California and the need to increase and vitalize relations between the business communities. They agreed to elevate this dialogue in an effort to take practical steps toward achieving cooperation. Newsom and Pashinyan also discussed cooperation in combatting wildfires and to create training and exchange programs to better confront these disasters.

Pashinyan invited Newsom to visit Armenia, with the governor pledging to schedule such a visit at an opportune time in the future.

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