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In the wake of Armenia’s recent accession into the World Trade Organization (WTO), the Armenian Assembly of America (AAA) urged the United States to establish a free trade agreement with Armenia, a press release by the AAA said. Armenia was admitted to the WTO December 10, after finalizing negotiations in Geneva, Switzerland.

“We call on the United States to take the next step and consider a free trade agreement with Armenia, a country with which it shares strong democratic values,” said Assembly Board of Directors Vice-Chair Anthony Barsamian. “Armenia’s entry into the international trade body signifies the great strides the country has made in the development of its market economy as a regional leader,” Barsamian continued.

“We urge the U.S. government to speed the process by initiating a free trade agreement with Armenia.” According to this year’s findings of the Wall Street Journal/Heritage Foundation Index of Economic Freedom, Armenia is a regional leader in investment opportunities. Among the entire Commonwealth of Independent States, Armenia provides the best opportunity for business activity and foreign investments based on its liberal trade regime and sound economic policies, according to the study.

The latest government statistics list the United States as one of Armenia’s top five trading partners, thereby creating a need for U.S. trade benefits for Armenian goods. Last year, Armenia’s exports to the United States grew by 43percent, with the biggest percentage of Armenian exports going to California. In September, California Governor Gray Davis signed a bill establishing a California Trade Office in Armenia, making California the first state in the U.S. to formalize relations with Armenia.

Prior to that, the House of Representatives passed the Omnibus Trade Bill, allowing certain Armenian goods such as jewelry, duty-free entry into the United States. Known as the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), the legislation gave Armenia easier access to American markets.

In a letter to President Robert Kocharian following Armenia’s entry into the WTO, Congressmen Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) and Joe Knollenberg (R-MI) wrote: “We have been impressed over the last eleven years on the progress Armenia has made to shed the cultural and economic burdens of the former Soviet Union and embrace the western ideals of an open economy, a progressive foreign policy and a democratic government.”

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