Senate Adopts Trade Measure without Key Armenia Provision

WASHINGTON–DC (ANCA)–The Armenian National Committee Of America (ANCA) voiced disappointment over the Senate’s failure to include a key US-Armenia trade provision in a larger trade bill that cleared the body earlier on Friday.

The provision–adopted by the House last November–would grant Armenia Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) status. Adoption of this measure 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 are disappointed that the Senate missed this excellent opportunity to expand trade between the US and Armenia," said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. "We are hopeful that–as the trade bill moves through the legislative process–supporters in both houses will be able to ensure the inclusion of the Armenia-PNTR provision."

An Armenia-PNTR resolution–S.1557–was introduced by Senators Mitch McConnell (R-KY)–Paul Sarbanes (D-MD)–and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) on August 1–2003–and currently has 15 cosponsors. A companion measure–H.R.528–which was adopted by the House in November of last year–was introduced by Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-chairmen Joe Knollenberg (R-MI) and Frank Pallone (D-NJ).

In a letter last March to the House Ways and Means Committee–Hamparian noted that: "In order for Armenia’s economic growth to continue and for its benefits to reach more people–Armenia needs to increase investment and trade. Armenia is dedicated to expanding its economic relationship with the United States–but–without PNTR–Armenia loses its ability to attract viable export markets in and investment from the United States. At the same time–without PNTR–American entrepreneurs who see Armenia as an emerging economy with potential for investment and trade–hesitate to establish ventures that cannot be protected by WTO rules or to import Armenian goods at higher–non-MFN tariff rates."

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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