BY SENATOR ANTHONY PORTANTINO
This week, I was honored to have participated in a historic event as Governor Gavin Newsom signed a comprehensive Memorandum of Understanding with Armenian Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan formalizing economic and trade relations between California and Armenia. Included in the MOU is the establishment of California’s first International Trade Desk in Yerevan. After the MOU was signed, I was able to join H.E. Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, Governor Newsom and Commissioner for Diaspora Affairs Zareh Sinanyan for a robust 45 minute private meeting at the Armenian Mission to the United Nations. The exciting development is a recognition of the importance of the Armenian American community in California and the economic promise brought forth by the Velvet Revolution.
For over a decade, the California Armenian American community has wanted to rekindle formal economic ties with Armenia. Responding to that call for action, I introduced SB 302 in January to reestablish our trade office in Yerevan. In concert with this effort, Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis was tasked by Governor Newsom to spearhead California’s international efforts. The newly established Trade Desk will be under her purview and be placed in the Governor’s Office of Business Development (GOBIZ). This is an exciting development as it not only professionalizes our international trade efforts – it brings stability and leadership to the effort. The Lieutenant Governor recently returned from Yerevan with an excitement for positive relations and was on hand to welcome the Prime Minister in Los Angeles.
Starting with Jack Scott in 2001, and continuing to today, many people and organizations have pursued and encouraged a formal relationship between California and Armenia. I have been blessed to represent the legislative district with the largest Armenian American Community in the country and to have worked closely with local Armenian leaders to bring this recent effort to the forefront. Former Glendale Mayor Zareh Sinanyan took me to Armenia and to Artsakh for the first time in 2016 and ardently advocated for the MOU. And, last September, I was asked to join the Armenian National Committee of America Western Region on a Tech Trade Delegation to Yerevan and Gyumri. These delegations and strong voices aided the effort that was formalized on Tuesday. We are collectively very grateful to Governor Newsom for his bold vision for California and international trade and his strong leadership to make this MOU a reality. We would not be pursuing this exciting path without his continued embrace of the Armenian American Community in California; most recently, including $5 million for the Armenian American museum in Glendale.
Following up on this exciting new day between California and Armenia I am heading back to Armenia next month where I hope to further move the Trade Desk forward. I am very excited and proud to see that Yerevan will not just be for Armenia but be the central focus for Europe. This is quite an accomplishment as described by the Governor’s Office yesterday:
“Through today’s agreement, California will establish a Trade and Services Desk in Armenia to be utilized by delegations and California’s trade representative for Europe and Eurasia from the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development, to encourage trade and investment by Californian and Armenian businesses. The Trade and Services Desk will foster economic cooperation and development by assisting entrepreneurs in connecting with their counterparts to engage in various trade and commercial activities.”
I am privileged to represent the 25th State Senate District and pleased to have helped facilitate this effort on behalf of the proud Armenian American community I’m honored to represent.
Anthony Portantino is a California Senator representing nearly 930,000 people in the 25th Senate District, which includes Altadena, Atwater Village, Bradbury, Burbank, Claremont, Duarte, Glendale, Glendora, La Cañada Flintridge, La Crescenta, Lake View Terrace, La Verne, Los Feliz, Monrovia, Montrose, Pasadena, San Dimas, San Marino, Shadow Hills, Sierra Madre, South Pasadena, Sunland-Tujunga, and Upland.