Trade Office Bill Expected to Encounter Opposition at Tuesday Hearing

ANCA-WR pushes for passage of California-Armenia regional trade office bill in State Assembly committee

SACRAMENTO – After recently passing a full Senate vote in the California Legislature–Senator Jack Scott’s California-Armenia Regional Trade Office Bill–(SB1657) now faces its biggest hurdle on the Assembly side in the Committee on Jobs–Economic Development and the Economy. Assemblymember Sarah Reyes (D-Fresno)–committee chairwoman–voted against a previous bill that also called for the establishment of an Armenia Trade Office–claiming that there aren’t enough checks and balances for the dozen overseas offices the state already has.

"Although SB 1657 would enable the State of California to measure the effectiveness of the trade office in Armenia–the Committee Chairwoman has strong reservations about authorizing and funding an office in Armenia," stated ANCA-WR Board member Berdj Karapetian following the meeting with Fresno area Assemblywoman earlier this week.

ANCA-WR Board member John Boghossian–who accompanied Karapetian and Senator Jack Scott during the meeting–added that it will be beneficial for the Assemblywoman to hear from everyone who supports this bill.

The idea of a California Trade Office in Armenia has been considered by the State Legislature for more than 3 years and contributed to the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between California Governor Gray Davis and Armenia’s Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian in November of last year. The ANC and dozens of community organizations are pushing for the establishment of a trade office as the next natural step to improve trade and investment between Armenia and California.

Unlike other current trade offices–SB 1657 not only requires a comprehensive evaluation of the success of the regional trade office but it calls for new authorization by the State Government for the operation of the office beyond January 1–2006. The study of the office’s economic impact on trade–investment and tourism in California and the Trans-Caucusus region would be a model for other current and future trade offices.

SB 1657 would have the trade office serve Armenia and surrounding Eastern European and Western Asian independent neighbors. The aim of the proposal is for California to promote trade relations in developing areas of the world that show emerging market potential.

"An investment in this Trade Office is an investment in California’s economic future and would help create many jobs in both regions," commented Ardashes Kassakhian–Director of Government Relations for the ANCA-WR.

"The ANC does not wish to see this process postponed any more than it has already–particularly during a time when both Armenia and the State of California could use an economic boost."

SB 1657 will be discussed and potentially voted on in committee on Tuesday–June 25–2002. The ANCA-WR has made the passage of the bill a top priority since its introduction and continues to remain actively involved in the process.

"The Armenian-American community would like to see California embrace this opportunity to build stronger economic ties with Armenia. The Senate has demonstrated their foresight in solving California’s economic troubles by passing this important piece of legislation and we hope that the Assembly will do the same," state Steven J. Dadaian–Chairman of the ANCA-WR.

Armenia–which in 1991 gained itsindependence from the Soviet Union–was the first former Soviet Republic to privatize agriculture and continues to privatize small businesses and state-run enterprises. Armenia has made significant advancemen’s in computer technology and telecommunication–which can open new markets for California’s high-tech and biotech industries.

The State of California currently has trade offices in Germany–the United Kingdom–Hong Kong–Indonesia–Israel–Mexico–the Republic of South Africa–Taiwan–and Japan. Senator Scott’s measure calls for the addition of a trade office to be located in Yerevan–the capital of the Republic of Armenia.

The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) is the largest and most influential Armenian American grassroots political organization. Working in coordination with a network of offices–chapters–and supporters throughout the United States and affiliated organizations around the world–the ANCA actively advances the concerns of the Armenian American community on a broad range of issues.

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