ANCA Protests Turkish Blockade of Armenia; Calls for U.S.-Armenia Trade Incentives to Help Offset Economic Impact of Turkish Blockade on Armenia WASHINGTON–DC–The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA)–in a letter sent to key Congressional leaders–outlined the Armenian American community’s opposition to legislation before Congress that would significantly open up U.S. markets to Turkish products.
The legislation–introduced in both the Senate and House–would amend the U.S.-Israel Free Trade Area–created in 1985–by providing duty-free access for Turkish goods from certain areas within Turkey. According to sources close to the White House–the Administration actively supports making this economic concession to Turkey. According to the Anatolia News Agency–which is closely tied to the Turkish government–Turkish officials stressed the importance of this legislation in talks with Undersecretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz during his visit earlier this month to Ankara.
In the letter–the ANCA stressed that it is "fundamentally opposed to our government rewarding Turkey with increased market access – at the cost of American jobs – at the same time that Turkey is imposing an illegal blockade of Armenia. Such a move would run counter to American values and undermine our long-standing efforts to promote economic integration in the Caucasus region."
The ANCA letter–signed by Executive Director Aram Hamparian–went on to note that–"adopting this legislation without meaningfully addressing the illegal Turkish blockade of Armenia would amount to turning a blind-eye to the economic hardship and suffering this blockade continues to inflict on the Armenian people. Such an action would also contribute to the institutionalization of the blockade and send the dangerous signal that the U.S. has adopted a ‘business as usual’ approach to Turkey that overlooks clear and ongoing violations of U.S. and international law."
Hamparian closed the letter by recommending that the Congress consider linking the granting of duty-free status to Turkish products to Turkey’s lifting its illegal blockade of Armenia. He also suggested that Congress take concrete steps to "help offset the devastating impact of the blockade through the establishment of a separate U.S.-Armenia Free Trade Agreement and other mutually beneficial bilateral economic initiatives."
In the Senate–the measure (S.2663) was introduced by Finance Committee ranking member Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and John Breaux (D-LA). The House version (H.R.5002) was introduced by Rep. Phil Crane (R-IL)–the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Trade–and has been cosponsored by House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-TX)–Ways and Means Committee ranking member Charles Rangel (D-NY)–and Reps. Robert Wexler (D-FL)–Tom Lantos (D-CA) and Pete Sessions (R-TX). The House and Senate versions have been referred to the Ways and Means and Finance committees–respectively.