US House Panel Set to Consider Trade Concessions to Turkey

ANCA Opposes Measure to Reward Turkey; Calls for U.S.-Armenia Trade Incentives to Help Offset Economic Impact of Turkish Blockade on Armenia

WASHINGTON–DC–The Trade Subcommittee of the influential House Ways and Means Committee will meet as early as tomorrow to consider controversial legislation (H.R.5002) that would dramatically open up U.S. markets to a broad range of Turkish products–despite Turkey’s ongoing nine-year blockade of Armenia–reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).

The measure–introduced by Rep. Phil Crane (R-IL)–the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Trade–has been cosponsored by–among others–House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-TX)–Ways and Means Committee ranking member Charles Rangel (D-NY)–Turkish Caucus Chairman Robert Wexler (D-FL)–and Reps. Tom Lantos (D-CA) and Pete Sessions (R-TX). A companion bill (S.2663) has been introduced in the Senate by Senators Charles Grassley (R-IA)–John McCain (R-AZ) and John Breaux (D-LA). The Senate version has been referred to the Finance Committee.

Both the House and Senate versions would amend the U.S.-Israel Free Trade Area–created in 1985–by providing duty-free access for Turkish goods from certain areas within Turkey. The measure enjoys the strong support of the White House.

Over the past several months–the ANCA has regularly informed Congressional leaders and key committee members about the Armenian American community’s opposition to this legislation. In a July 26th letter to members of Congress–the ANCA stressed that it is "fundamentally opposed to our government rewarding Turkey with increased market access – at the cost of American jobs – at the same time that Turkey is imposing an illegal blockade of Armenia. Such a move would run counter to American values and undermine our long-standing efforts to promote economic integration in the Caucasus region."

In a letter sent today to members of the House Ways and Means Committee–the ANCA reminded legislators that–"according to World Bank figures–the impact of the Turkish blockade has been estimated as costing Armenia between $500 and $720 million annually–roughly a quarter of its entire economy and up to half of its exports. Upwards of 800,000 Armenia’s – close to a quarter of Armenia’s population – have been forced from their homeland over the past decade–largely as a result of the economic dislocation caused by Turkey and Azerbaijan’s blockades."

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