Bipartisan Support Grows for Normalization of US Armenia Trade

WASHINGTON–DC–Bipartisan Congressional support for legislation to permanently normalize trade relations between the United States and Armenia continues to grow in the US House of Representatives–reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).

"We appreciate the leadership of the Armenian Caucus for legislation providing permanent normalized trade relations status to Armenia–and are encouraged by the growing bipartisan support for this measure in the US House," said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. "We urge the Congress to adopt this measure at the earliest opportunity."

The legislation–H.R. 528–introduced by Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chairs Joe Knollenberg (R-MI) and Frank Pallone (D-NJ) in March of this year–would provide permanent normal trade relations status (PNTR) to the Republic of Armenia. This would ensure lower tariffs on Armenian imports to the US and give greater Armenian access to US government credit facilities on a permanent basis. The legislation was introduced less than two months after Armenia was formally approved for entry into the World Trade Organization.

The bill is currently under consideration by the House Committee on Ways and Means Subcommittee on Trade. The Subcommittee–under the chairmanship of Rep. Phil Crane (R-IL)–recently closed a 45-day call for public comment–during which the ANCA submitted its testimony in support of the measure. In his statement to the Subcommittee–ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian explained that:

"We believe that it is important that the United States establish PNTR and formalize their WTO relationship with Armenia–a strong friend and ally of the American people. Despite long-standing economic blockades by its neighbors–Armenia has managed to sustain strong levels of economic growth and a commitment to open markets and free trade. Examples of this include the United States- Armenia Agreement on Bilateral Trade Relations in 1992 and Bilateral Investment Treaty in 1996. Last year bilateral trade between the United States and Armenia amounted to more than $134,200,000."

PNTR LEGISLATION ATTRACTS SUPPORT OF TURKISH CAUCUS CHAIRMAN AND MEMBERS

The most recent list of forty-nine cosponsors of H.R. 528 includes four members of the Congressional Turkish Caucus–including its Chairman–Rep. Robert Wexler (D-FL). Other Turkish Caucus members who support the measure are Reps. Gil Gutknecht (R-MN)–James Moran (D-VA) and Henry Waxman (D-CA).

Commenting on this development–Hamparian noted–"We join with Armenian Americans in Florida’s 19th Congressional District and throughout the Sunshine State in voicing our hope that Congressman Wexler’s support for H.R.528 reflects an increased willingness on his part to look objectively at the issues of concern to his Armenian American constituents – particularly the recognition of the Armenian Genocide."

The complete list of Congressional co-sponsors for H.R. 528 includes Representatives Robert Andrews (D-NJ)–Shelley Berkley (D-NV)–Howard Berman (D-CA)–Eric Cantor (R-VA)–Michael Capuano (D-MA)–Dennis Cardoza (D-CA)–Jerry Costello (D-IL)–Joseph Crowley (D-NY)–Calvin Dooley (D-CA)–Vernon Ehlers (R-MI)–Bob Filner (D-CA)–Gil Gutknecht (R-MN)–Joe Hoeffel (D-PA)–Michael Honda (D-CA)–Patrick Kennedy (D-RI)–Mark Kirk (R-IL)–Joe Knollenberg (R-MI)–James Langevin (D-RI)–William Lipinski (D-IL)–Zoe Lofgren (D-CA)–Carolyn Maloney (D-NY)–Edward Markey (D-MA)–Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY)–Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI)–James McGovern (D-MA)–Michael McNulty (D-NY)–Candice Miller (R-MI)–James Moran (D-VA)–John Olver (D-MA)–Frank Pallone (D-NJ)–Ron Paul (R-TX)–Donald Payne (D-NJ)–George Radanovich (R-CA)–Steven Rothman (D-NJ)–Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA)–H. James Saxton (R-NJ)–Adam Schiff (D-CA)–Christopher Smith (R-NJ)–Mark Souder (R-IN)–John Sweeney (R-NY)–John Tierney (D-MA)–Edolphus Towns (D-NY)–Fred Upton (R-MI)–Christopher Van Hollen (D-MD)–Peter Visclosky (D-IN)–Diane Watson (D-CA)–Henry Waxman (D-CA)–Anthony Weiner (D-NY)–and Robert Wexler (D-FL).

The Trade Act of 1974 excluded all Soviet countries from having normal trade relations (NTR) status with the United States. One provision of the Act–known as the Jackson-Vanick amendment–required the President to deny NTR to those countries that restricted free emigration. The policy was adopted–in part–in response to Communist government restrictions on the repatriation of Jews. According to the terms of the Jackson-Vanick amendment–when the President determines that freedom of emigration rights have been reinstated in a country–normal trade relations may be granted. To maintain NTR–the President must report to Congress twice a year that Jackson-Vanick requiremen’s have been met. While successive Presidents have waived the Jackson-Vanick Amendment restrictions on Armenia during the past decade–the passage of the Knollenberg bill–would grant Armenia permanent NTR (PNTR) status–without the need for bi-yearly Presidential determinations.

Permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) status ensures lower duties on Armenian imports to the US–creating incentives for increased trade and investment opportunities between the two countries. As such–the measure strengthens bilateral relations between the two countries and helps reinforce the enduring friendship between the American and Armenian peoples. Increased US-Armenia trade and investment also helps to offset the impact of the Turkish and Azerbaijani blockades–estimated by the World Bank at up to $720 million a year.

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