WASHINGTON—Armenian and Hellenic Americans from across the United States are calling on members of the House Natural Resources Committee to vote against legislation that would, if adopted as introduced, create special trade advantages for Turkey in its dealings with Indian Tribes, reported the Armenian National Committee of America.
This trade measure is set to be “marked-up” along with a series of other bills on Thursday. An ANCA action alert calls on Members of this panel to oppose H.R.2362 based on a number of criteria, including the following three points:
— The U.S. Congress should not extend special economic benefits particularly in relation to Indian Tribes – to a country that remains an unrepentant perpetrator of genocide against millions of its own indigenous minorities, including Armenians, Greeks, Assyrians, and others.
— The U.S. Congress should not reward Turkey when it is blockading Armenia, threatening Cyprus, antagonizing Israel, attacking its own Kurdish population, and increasingly undermining U.S. regional priorities.
— The U.S. Congress should not risk violating our nation’s other trade agreements by putting Turkey at the head of the line, ahead of other countries that have been reliable and friendly allies of the United States.
Armenian and Hellenic Groups Register Concerns in Statements to Committee Leadership
A number of Armenian and Hellenic organizations, including the ANCA and American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (AHEPA), have outlined a broad range of concerns – from moral to economic to political – regarding H.R.2362.
In a statement issued Wednesday, ANCA Government Affairs Director Kate Nahapetian urges Committee members “to keep in mind our serious moral and practical reservations, as well as the clear inequities and even potential violations of trade agreements that would be involved in its adoption.” She explained that “the U.S. Congress should not extend special economic benefits to a country that remains an unrepentant perpetrator of genocide against millions of its own indigenous minorities, including Armenians, Greeks, Assyrians, and others.”
Nahapetian went on to cite a recent Congressional Research Service (CRS) report, which notes that H.R.2362 “could violate our obligations under NAFTA and the WTO General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS).” The ANCA statement argued “It remains an open and unanswered question as to why Congress should give Turkey an advantage over other countries, such as Canada, that have not only shown a material interest, but have actually already entered into agreements with tribes.”
AHEPA Chairman Dr. John Grossomanides explained, “AHEPA wishes to raise areas of concern that shed light on
1. Turkish threats to U.S. commercial interests;
2. Turkey’s mistreatment of minority communities; and
3. Turkish entities already in the United States.
AHEPA strongly contended that these three areas of concern are quite germane to the legislation because they demonstrate Turkish attitude toward U.S. commercial interests and behavior toward minority communities and reflect the existing track record of Turkish entities in the United States.”
The Armenian Assembly of America (AAA), PSEKA (International Coordinating Committee – Justice for Cyprus), Cyprus Federation of America, Pancyprian Association of America, and the American Hellenic Council are also opposing the measure.
Reps. Pallone and Sarbanes Offer Early Opposition to H.R.2362
In a detailed letter sent to the House Natural Resources Committee leadership prior to a subcommittee hearing on H.R.2362, Representatives John Sarbanes (D-MD) and Frank Pallone (D-NJ) expressed serious reservations regarding the measure, noting that this type of arrangement would be unusual and potentially problematic,” and citing a broad range of concerns, including: Turkey’s threats against American business enterprises; Turkey’s mistreatment of religious and ethnic minorities; Turkey’s blockade of Armenia; and, Turkey’s illegal occupation of Cyprus, among other issues. “The fact that it is being specifically catered to Turkish interests makes it indefensible given Turkey’s recent, as well as historic, conduct,” contended the legislators.
The Indian Tribal Trade and Investment Demonstration Project Act of 2011 (H.R.2362) was introduced by Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) in June, and has only 13 cosponsors. The House Natural Resources Committee is scheduled to vote on the measure on November 17 at 10 a.m. and will be webcast live.