By Heghine Buniatian
(RFE/RL) – On March 23, Senior Official from the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) Aimee Larsen met with Armenian government representatives and businesspeople in Yerevan to advise them on ways to capitalize on Armenia’s mostly tariff-free access to the U.S. market.
The U.S. Deputy Chief of Mission in Armenia Clark Price spoke of a “tremendous amount of potential” for increasing U.S.-Armenian trade. “We see no limits actually,” Price said. “We are very enthusiastic about the potential.”
“We’re not just talking about American exports to Armenia. We’re supporting Armenian exports to the U.S. truly in a bilateral way,” Price told RFE/RL’s Armenian service, Azatutyun.
Armenia is among 122 countries included in the U.S. Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program, which fully or partly exempts goods manufactured by them from U.S import duties.
Armenian exports to the United States have been quite modest to date, amounting to $55 million according to official Armenian statistics for 2015. U.S. exports to Armenia were worth twice as much last year.
According to Armenia Ministry of Economy, although most of those exports are covered by GSP, many other Armenian manufacturing firms still do not take advantage of the preferential trade regime with the U.S. Some of their owners and managers attended a seminar on GSP on March 23, organized by the ministry and the U.S. Embassy in Yerevan.
Larson was on hand to present business opportunities stemming from GSP and legal procedures for qualifying for the trade scheme. She also answered questions from participants of the seminar.
“I’m here today to help increase the awareness of the GSP program that gives duty-free access to Armenia [for] over 3,500 products,” Larsen said. “I’m hoping that … Armenian exporters will be able to increase their trade with the United States.”
“Armenian exporters don’t know everything about GSP that they could, and the reason why Aimee is here is to explain that to them so that they can take advantage of it,” Price added.
“It’s very important to put this in the context of U.S.-Armenian relations,” Price said. “We had a [bilateral] Trade and Investment Council meeting last year for the first time. One of the things that the Armenian government asked us was help with GSP. So we are delivering on our promise.”
The council was set up in accordance to the U.S.-Armenian Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) that was signed in Washington, D.C. in May 2015, which addresses obstacles to bilateral commercial ties.
The signing of the TIFA – at a ceremony attended by President Serzh Sargsyan – underlined Armenia’s desire to continue deepening its relations with the U.S. and the European Union even after its recent accession to the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU).
Photo Caption 1: Aimee Larsen, a senior official from the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), visits the Armenian Economy Ministry in Yerevan on March 23, 2016.
Photo Caption 2 (L-R): U.S. Assistant Trade Representative Daniel Mullaney and Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian sign the U.S.-Armenian Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) in Washington, D.C. on May 7, 2015.