Senators Mcconnell Sarbanes Introduce Armenia Trade Legislation

HOUSE VERSION OF BILL TO GRANT PERMANENT NORMAL TRADE RELATIONS STATUS TO THE REPUBLIC OF ARMENIA HAS ALREADY GARNERED OVER 100 CO-SPONSORS

WASHINGTON–DC-In a continued effort to open the door to increased trade between the United States and Armenia–Senate Foreign Operations Subcommittee Chairman Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Banking Committee Ranking Member Paul Sarbanes (D-MD) introduced legislation earlier today that would provide permanent normal trade relations status to the Republic of Armenia–reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).

The companion measure in the House–H.R.528–introduced by Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chairmen Joe Knollenberg (R-MI) and Frank Pallone (D-NJ)–has already garnered over 100 cosponsors. The legislation would ensure lower tariffs on Armenian imports to the US and give greater Armenian access to US government credit facilities on a permanent basis.

"We appreciate Senator McConnell’s and Sarbanes’ leadership in further strengthening the US-Armenia relationship by introducing legislation to permanently normalize the growing trade relationship between American and Armenian businesses," said Aram Hamparian–Executive Director of the ANCA. "We will–here in Washington–DC and through our chapters around the nation–discuss with our elected officials the economic benefits of extending PNTR to Armenia–and will urge the Congress to adopt this legislation at the earliest opportunity."

Introducing the legislation–Sen. Sarbanes spoke out about the importance of building up US-Armenia trade relations. "Expanded US-Armenia trade will act as a spur to greater economic activity in Armenia–which in turn will lead to more and better-paying jobs and ease the hardships that Armenia’s confront in their daily lives," explained the Senator. Earlier this week–Senators McConnell and Sarbanes urged their colleagues to support the measure–reminding Senators–that "Armenia’s recent accession to the WTO reflects its continuing progress in adopting and implementing economic and trade reforms." 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 PNTR bill in the House and Senate–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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