In Statement to USTR, the ANCA Cites Baku’s Blockade of Armenia, Sanctuary for Safarov, and Visa Restrictions on Ethnic Armenians
WASHINGTON – The U.S. should end preferential trade treatment for Azerbaijan, according to a formal Armenian National Committee of America public statement submitted to the U.S. Trade Representative in anticipation of its January 17, 2020, public hearing to review Baku’s continued eligibility to export products to the United States under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) – a program that eliminates trade duties on thousands of products from 119 designated countries.
In the ANCA letter, Government Affairs Director Tereza Yerimyan cited three reservations: 1) Azerbaijan’s collusion with Turkey to blockade Armenia, 2) Azerbaijan’s sanctuary for convicted murderer Ramil Safarov, and; 3) Azerbaijan’s racist policy of denying visas to ethnic Armenians. The official USTR meeting notice highlights Azerbaijan’s violations of worker rights, and welcomes U.S. citizens and organization to submit public comments for considering during the hearing.
Established by the Trade Act of 1974, the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) is the largest and oldest U.S. trade preference program. It GSP promotes economic development by eliminating duties on some 3500 imported from 119 designated beneficiary countries and territories, including Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan.
The full text of the letter is provided below.
November 20, 2019
The Honorable Robert Lighthizer
United States Trade Representative
Office of the U.S. Trade Representative
600 17th St, NW
Washington, DC 20508
Re: Docket No. USTR-2019-0021
Azerbaijan Country Practice Review: Comment
Public Hearing: Generalized System of Preferences: Country Practice Reviews of Azerbaijan, Ecuador, Georgia, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Thailand, South Africa, and Uzbekistan, and for the Country Designation Review of Laos
Dear Ambassador Lighthizer:
In accordance with the Federal Register notice regarding the above captioned review, the Armenian National Committee of America raises the following reservations, under 19 U.S.C. §2462 (Designation of Beneficiary Countries), regarding Azerbaijan’s eligibility for the Generalized System of Preferences.
1. Azerbaijan’s collusion with Turkey, as parties to a longstanding, dual economic blockade of Armenia, violates this statute’s prohibition on granting GSP to a country, if “such country is a party to an arrangement of countries and participates in any action pursuant to such arrangement, the effect of which is to withhold supplies of vital commodity resources from international trade…”
2. Azerbaijan’s decision to pardon and grant sanctuary to convicted murderer Ramil Safarov – who was found guilty in a Hungarian court of killing an Armenian officer with an axe, while he slept, during a NATO training exercise in Hungary – violates this statute’s prohibition on granting GSP to a country if, “Such country aids or abets, by granting sanctuary from prosecution to, any individual or group which has committed an act of international terrorism…”
We also ask that you materially take into account the additional criteria, included in this statute, concerning “the extent to which such country has taken action to reduce trade distorting investment practices and policies,” in light of the Azerbaijani government’s patently prejudicial policy of discriminating against ethnic Armenians – including U.S. citizens – who request travel or business visas.
Thank you for taking our concerns into consideration. Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions or requests for additional information.
Government Affairs Director
cc: Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues