Senate Adjourns Before Adopting Key US Armenia Trade Provision

Though US House gives final approval to extend permanent normal trade relations status to Armenia–post-adjournment session may approve measure only after election

WASHINGTON–DC (ANCA)–US Senators left Washington yesterday to hit the campaign trail before taking up a large trade bill that includes a provision to permanently normalize trade between the US and Armenia.

Senate’s failure to act on the provision that would grant Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) status to Armenia–was due to entirely unrelated concerns about other parts of the larger trade measure–HR 1047–the Miscellaneous Trade and Technical Corrections Act. The US House passed this bill on October 8. The last opportunity for Congress to approve this measure during the 108th Congress will be during a rare post-adjournment session of Congress–either before or–more likely–after the November 2 election. This session will deal primarily with approving appropriations bills and finalizing legislation on intelligence reform.

Armenian Caucus Co-Chairman Joe Knollenberg (R-MI) was the first to raise the issue of Armenia PNTR in Congress. His legislation–HR 528–introduced last year was supported by the Armenian Caucus and cosponsored 112 other Members of Congress. A companion bill was introduced on the Senate side by Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and cosponsored by 21 other Senators. The strong support for these measures paved the way for serious consideration of their inclusion by members of Congress negotiating the final version of the larger trade measure.

"We want to thank Congressman Knollenberg–Senator McConnell and all those who played a role in bringing Armenia PNTR to the brink of final adoption," said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. "While we would have liked to have seen the Senate act before adjourning–we remain hopeful that this measure will be enacted into law before the end of the 108th Congress."

Over the past two years–the ANCA has worked–in Washington–DC and in local communities throughout the country to generate bipartisan support for the measure among legislators–including those serving on key trade subcommittees.

The trade bill represents a core element of the ANCA’s efforts to expand bilateral economic relations–provide new commercial opportunities–and further strengthen the enduring bonds between the American and Armenian peoples. Over ten thousand pro-Armenia activists sent ANCA WebFaxes to Congress–thousands more made phone calls in support of PNTR–and this important issue was raised in several hundred Congressional visits–both in District Offices and the nation’s capital. The sample ANCA WebFax letter for activists included several reasons to support this legislation–among them: nIncreased US-Armenia trade and investment advances US foreign policy by strengthening Armenia’s free market economic development and integration into the world economy.

– Expanded US-Armenia commercial relations will strengthen bilateral relations and reinforces the enduring friendship between the American and Armenian peoples.

– Adoption of PNTR for Armenia will help offset–at no cost to US taxpayers–the devastating impact of the dual Turkish and Azerbaijani blockades–estimated by the World Bank as costing Armenia up to a third of its entire GDP (as much as $720 million annually) and half of its exports.

The Trade Act of 1974 excluded all Soviet countries from having normal trade relations (NTR) status with the United States. One particular provision of the Act–known as the Jackson-Vanik 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 emigration of Jews. According to the terms of the Jackson-Vanik 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-Vanik requiremen’s have been met. While successive Presidents have waived the Jackson-Vanik Amendment restrictions on Armenia during the past decade–the passage of the Knollenberg bill–would grant Armenia permanent normal trade relations status–without the need for semi-yearly Presidential determinations.

The depth of American support for Armenia PNTR was made clear in the responses from around the nation to the multi-issue candidate questionnaires circulated this election season by the ANCA. Challengers and incumbents from both parties have stressed their support for legislation that would grant (PNTR) status.

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