Congress Adopts Key US Armenia Trade Provision

Bill Granting Permanent Normal Trade Relations Status to Armenia Headed for Presidential Signature

WASHINGTON–DC–The Senate–today–unanimously acted to permanently normalize trade between the US and Armenia–opening the door to expanded economic relations–new commercial opportunities–and the further strengthening of the longstanding bonds between the American and Armenian peoples–reported the Armenian National Committee Of America (ANCA). With the House version of the measure adopted in October–the bill now goes to President Bush for signature.

This provision–which gran’s Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) status to Armenia–was adopted in the final hours of the of the Senate lame-duck session as part of the larger bill–HR 1047–the Miscellaneous Trade and Technical Corrections Act. The bill–which has been held up due to human rights concerns in Laos–was considered following a Senate vote to avert a filibuster of the measure.

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 by 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 their inclusion by members of Congress negotiating the final version of the larger trade measure.

"The ANCA welcomes the Congressional passage of the Armenia-PNTR bill and thanks Congressman Knollenberg–Senator McConnell and all those who played a role in securing its passage," said Ken Hachikian–Chairman of the ANCA. "Following Presidential signature of the measure–we look forward to exploring new opportunities to further expand the growing US-Armenia economic relationship."

Over the past two years–the ANCA has worked–in Washington–DC and in local communities throughout the country to generate bipartisan support for this trade measure among legislators–including those serving on key trade subcommittees. 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: – Increased 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 text of the Armenia PNTR provision is provided below:

Title II–Section 2001

Subtitle A – Miscellaneous Provisions

SEC. 2001. TERMINATION OF APPLICATION OF TITLE IV OF THE TRADE ACT OF 1974 TO ARMENIA.

(a) FINDINGS. Congress makes the following findings: (1) Armenia has been found to be in full compliance with the freedom of emigration requiremen’s under title IV of the Trade Act of 1974. (2) Armenia acceded to the World Trade Organization on February 5–2003. (3) Since declaring its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991–Armenia has made considerable progress in enacting free-market reforms. (4) Armenia has demonstrated a strong desire to build a friendly and cooperative relationship with the United States and has concluded many bilateral treaties and agreemen’s with the United States. (5) Total United States-Armenia bilateral trade for 2002 amounted to more than $134,200,000.

(b) PRESIDENTIAL DETERMINATIONS AND EXTENSIONS OF NONDISCRIMINATORY TREATMENT. Notwithstanding any provision of title IV of the Trade Act of 1974 (19 USC. 2431 et seq.)–the President may: (1) determine that such title should no longer apply to Armenia; and (2) after making a determination under paragraph (1) with respect to Armenia–proclaim the extension of nondiscriminatory treatment (normal trade relations treatment) to the products of that country.

(c) TERMINATION OF APPLICATION OF TITLE IV. On and after the effective date of the extension under subsection (b)(2) of nondiscriminatory treatment to the products of Armenia–title IV of the Trade Act of 1974 shall cease to apply to that country.

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