California Armenia Trade Office Bill (Sb 1657) Passes Assembly Committee By Unanimous Vote

Senator Scott’s Armenia Trade Office Legislation Passes Key State Assembly Committee

SACRAMENTO–The California State Assembly Committee on Jobs–Economic Development and the Economy passed legislation introduced by Senator Jack Scott (D-Pasadena)–which would establish a California Regional Trade Office in the Republic of Armenia. The Armenian National Committee of America – Western Region submitted testimony to the Committee and was joined by a coalition of community organizations that were present to express their support for the bill. The ANCA-WR spearheaded the pan-community effort calling for the bill’s passage began earlier last week when news of its possible demise was made public.

Senate Bill 1657 would have the trade office serve Armenia and surrounding Eastern European and Southwestern 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. A study of the trade office’s economic impact on trade–investment and tourism would be completed by March–2005.

"California has an opportunity to establish an economic foothold in Armenia and its surrounding nations with the proposed trade office," said Senator Scott. "It will ignite business–trade and tourism openings between California and this geographic area. "With a substantial and supportive California Armenian community–this is a golden moment for California to increase its growing ties with the region and with the people of Armenia."

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.

Aram Kouyoumdjian–a long-time ANC and community activist–testified on behalf of the ANCA-WR at the hearing. During the hearing Kouyoumdjian explained that–"Since independence–over 50 U.S. hi-tech firms have done business with Armenia. Some of the high profile companies include Dominion Semiconductor–Fujitsu–LSI Logic–Teradyne–Toshiba–LEDA Systems–and HPL Technologies. This shows the confidence that some of the industry’s leaders have in Armenia’s high-tech potential. In addition–many European and Russian firms are also doing business with Armenian companies."

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.

"We’re excited that the Committee decided that this legislation was in the best interest of California and has taken a proactive step to improving California’s economy while simultaneously facilitating investment in Armenia," stated Ardashes Kassakhian–Director of Government Relations for the ANCA-WR. "The ANCA-WR is working to ensure that this bill continues to move forward through the legislative process."

The support for the bill has been overwhelming as Armenian-Americans from all over the State have called upon their Assembly representatives to support the Trade Office legislation responding to the ANC’s action alerts and call to action.

"The ANC’s hard work on this issue has really paid off. This is a major step forward in this process," commented community activist Arbi Ohanian upon hearing the news of SB 1657 passing unanimously.

Armenia–which in 1991 gained its independence 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 measure now moves to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

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