ANCA Seeks White House support for Transition to Trade and Investment-based Relations
WASHINGTON—The Obama Administration budget released today calls for a yet another reduction in U.S. economic assistance to both Armenia and Azerbaijan, while maintaining parity in military aid to these two countries, reported the Armenian National Committee of America.
The President’s proposal of $18,360,000 in Economic Support Funds for Armenia in Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 would, if approved by Congress, represent a record low in such aid since Armenia’s independence. The White House’s proposal for Armenia is over $2 million less than FY 2014’s actual economic aid allocation, and less than half of the $40 million requested in a Congressional Armenian Caucus letter and ANCA Congressional testimony submitted last year.
“The White House must match its relentless reductions in aid to Armenia with an equally energetic effort to substantially increase bilateral trade and investment between our two nations,” stated ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. “It’s not too late for President Obama, who came into office promising to grow U.S.-Armenia economic relations, to negotiate a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement, put in place a badly-needed new Tax Treaty, and organize targeted trade missions promoting cooperation in IT, health care, education, tourism and other key sectors of Armenia’s economy.”
The White House’s proposal did, however, maintain parity in terms of appropriated military aid, with International Military Education and Training (IMET) assistance set at $600,000 and Foreign Military Finance (FMF) at $1,700,000. “While we remain deeply troubled that the Obama Administration – in the wake yet another wave of fatal cross-border Azerbaijani aggression – would propose any military aid at all to Ilham Aliyev’s armed forces, we do appreciate that, in this context, the principle of military aid parity has been maintained to both Armenia and Azerbaijan,” added Hamparian.
The Administration’s budget does not include any figures for aid to Nagorno Karabakh, although, over the past several years USAID has allocated $2,000,000 annually for this purpose.
In the coming months, the ANCA will be working with the Congressional Armenian Caucus and Senate and House Appropriators to increase assistance to Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh and zero-out all military assistance to Azerbaijan. “We urge Congress, during their consideration of the foreign aid bill, to increase aid to Armenia and Artsakh, cut all military aid to Azerbaijan, and support our other foreign aid policy priorities,” noted Hamparian.