Nalbandian: Racism and racial discrimination, xenophobia and intolerance grossly violate human dignity and give rise to tensions within and between societies. That is why the fight against them became one of the main priorities of our chairmanship.
The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) has called on members Congress to appropriate increased economic assistance for Armenia and to expand programs to promote U.S.-Armenia bilateral trade and investment.
Among the favorable findings referenced by the ANCA, in a letter sent this week to legislative offices calling for expanded trade promotion and increased assistance to Armenia, were the following:
- The World Bank, in its 2013 Doing Business report, ranked Armenia #32 worldwide in terms of overall ease of doing business, #11 for ease of starting a business, and #4 for ease of registering property.
- The Wall Street Journal/Heritage Foundation's 2013 Index of Economic Freedom rates Armenia #38 worldwide, and #17 among the 43 European states, ahead of Belgium, France, and Spain.
- The World Economic Forum's 2012 Global Enabling Trade Report ranks Armenia #13 worldwide for market access and #59 in terms of the overall extent to which it has developed institutions, policies, and services facilitating the free flow of goods over borders.
- Price Waterhouse Cooper, in its most recent Doing Business in Armenia guide, reported that, "Armenia encourages foreign trade and investment," and that, "[s]urveys suggest that Armenia is a relatively easy country in which to do business."
- The Millennium Challenge Corporation's 2013 scorecard reports that Armenia is rated in the 97th percentile in terms of both favorable trade policy and business start up, and in the 91st percentile with regard to regulatory quality.
- Freedom House, in its 2013 report on Freedom in the World, upgraded Armenia to a 5 rating for political rights.
In addition to these favorable indicators, Armenia has been a strong security partner for the United States, having sent troops to support US-led coalition efforts in Iraq, to assist NATO operations in Afghanistan, and to take part in international peacekeeping in Kosovo.
In terms of trade promotion, the ANCA - along with the American Chamber of Commerce in Armenia and major corporations, including Microsoft, FedEx, and NASDAQ - have called on the U.S. government to respond favorably to the Armenian government's interest in negotiating a badly-needed U.S.-Armenia Trade and Investment Framework Agreement and a long-overdue Double Tax Treaty. The ANCA looks to the Obama Administration to honor the President's commitments to expand U.S.-Armenia trade and investment, and is calling upon Congress to support the growth of mutually beneficial economic bilateral relations.
The legislative memo noted that, "it is in this spirit, and upon the solid foundation and friendship of the past two decades, that we call upon you to support the appropriation of increased economic assistance for Armenia and the expansion of programs to promote mutually beneficial U.S-Armenia bilateral trade and investment (such as a badly-needed U.S.-Armenia Trade and Investment Framework greement and a long-overdue Double Tax Treaty)."
The level of US aid to Armenia, which hit a high of $174 million in Fiscal Year 2003, has been steadily declining over the past two decades, as a result of both calls by successive Administrations for cuts, and growing Congressional pressure for reductions in spending. The Obama Administration, which came into office with aid levels at more than $60 million, has, despite the President's campaign pledge to maintain assistance to Armenia, sought reductions in the Armenia aid program. The overall economic and military aid level for Armenia in the most recent appropriations cycle is less than $45 million. The ANCA is asking for at least $50 million in FY2014 aid to Armenia. The President's proposed FY14 budget will be released in the coming weeks.