YEREVAN-On the third day of its official visit–the Armenian National Committee of America – Western Region California delegation–led by State Senator Jack Scott (D-Glendale/Pasadena)–and accompanied by his wife Lacreta Scott–as well as ANCA-WR representatives Berdj Karapetian and Artin Manoukian–continued to explore possibilities of expanding trade between California and Armenia–focusing on the business sector in Armenia and programs funded by the United States.
The delegation began the day by engaging members of the American Chamber of Commerce of Armenia in a candid discussion on the opportunities as well as obstacles to trade with Armenia. Although the representatives from 10 different business and professional enterprises doing business in Armenia had a positive outlook on their experience–they felt there were a number of obstacles to attracting new businesses to Armenia and expanding trade. Perhaps the greatest obstacle that will need to be overcome has to do with a lack of a positive perception-or a perception at all-from the non-Armenian world. Very few non-Armenian business owners and investors know about Armenia or confuse it with other countries. The American Chamber of Commerce of Armenia (ACCA) members also identified the packaging and marketing of Armenia and its products as another serious challenge.
According to the members of the ACCA–there are opportunities in expanding tourism and the information technology sector. The ACCA members presented to Senator Scott suggestions for expanding trade and tourism. ACCA President Thomas Samuelian–Esq. gave the California legislator an overview of the organization’s conferences on competitiveness.
The delegation accompanied by National Assembly Deputy Aghvan Vardanyan also met with US Ambassador to Armenia John Ordway–as well as USAID and US Embassy representatives. Ambassador Ordway pointed out that while Armenia is a relatively small market–it does present opportunities for investment and trade.
USAID Mission Director Keith Simmons and other mission representatives briefed the Senator on specific USAID programs withthe private sector–agriculture sector–energy sector–democracy–social transition–earthquake zone recovery–and water management. The Embassy representatives informed the delegation that they are already working closely with the California Technology–Trade and Commerce Agency on achieving some of the objectives of the Memorandum of Understanding between California and Armenia. An example is the California-Armenia Trade Mission conference being organized on May 23 to 25 in Armenia.
The delegation proceeded to visit two examples of projects supported by USAID in the areas of information technology and agribusiness. The delegation visited Viasphere Technopark. The Technopark which creates significant synergy facilitating up-start companies in the information technology field already is home to 7 companies–including three subsidiaries of US enterprises. The delegation traveled to Dzoraghpiur in the Kotayk Region to visit Artashes Limited. US based and AID contractor Development Alternatives Inc. joined the delegation to show how they are assisting companies such as Artashes Limited to introduce its products to international markets.
Senator Scott also visited the offices of the Armenian Relief Society to learn about the organization’s projects and programs in the earthquake zone and within the health and social spheres.
The delegation had the opportunity to become better acquainted with the American University of Armenia. The University which recently celebrated its 10th anniversary is an example of a public/private partnership and is an affiliate of the University of California. More than 900 students have already earned graduate degrees from the University.
During the first two days of their stay in Yerevan–the delegation met with a number of high level government representatives–including Presidential Chief of Staff Artashes Toumanyan–Minister of Regional Government and Coordinating of the Operation of Infrastructure Hovig Abrahamian–Minister of Urban Development and Reconstruction of the Earthquake Zone David Lokian–as well as parliamentary leaders–including the ARF Caucus.
The California delegation also had an opportunity to meet with His Holiness Karekin II–the Catholicos of All Armenia’s on Palm Sunday in the Holy City of Etchmiadzin–where the delegation was granted rare access to the Holy See’s museum.
The focus of the delegation’s meetings is on strengthening Armenia-California economic and trade ties-an area of intense activity for Senator Scott and the ANCA-WR. Since his election to the 21 State Senate seat–Senator Scott and the ANCA-WR cooperated actively in advancing the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding between California and Armenia–as a means of arriving at the creation of a publicly funded California Trade office in Armenia–serving the already existing business and trade connections between California and Armenia–which has been devastated by more than a decade-long blockade by Turkey and Azerbaijan.
"The ANCA-WR remains steadfast in its commitment to see the creation of a California Trade Office in Armenia that will work to not only strengthen ties between the Golden State and Armenia–but also to offset the damage done by the illegal blockades imposed by Azerbaijan and Turkey," explained ANCA-WR Chairman Steven J. Dadaian–commenting on the organization’s sponsorship of the California delegation. "We believe that with the support of California’s citizenry and leaders in the form of this initiative and State funding for this office–as well as a specific focus on California-Armenia trade activities for the trade office–Senator Scott–the ANCA-WR and the State of California will have achieved not only a mutually beneficial and long-term partnership–but they will have accomplished a major humanitarian feat."
The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) is the largest and most influential Armenian American grassroots political organization. Working in coordination with a network of offices–chapters–and supporters throughout the United States and affiliated organizations around the world–the ANCA actively advances the concerns of the Armenian American community on a broad range of issues.