U.S. and Armenia signed a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) on May 7, in the course of Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan’s visit to Washington. The agreement pursues both economic and geopolitical goals. It will help the U.S. corporations more intensively operate in Armenia and enhance the legal framework for the United States to gain foothold in the region. It is a new approach to Armenia. U.S. cannot stay aside of the region where Russia, Iran, Turkey, and EU are actively involved in. Armenia also seeks closer cooperation with the United States, despite its Eurasian vector of integration, and tries to wage a balanced policy and play upon differences of superpowers, say politicians and experts talking to EADaily .
Reportedly, the document (not published yet) will create favorable conditions for investments and boost the commodity turnover between Armenia and the United States.
At present, the commodity turnover between Armenia and U.S. is not as high as the ones with Russia and EU, the key trade partners of Armenia. In 2014, it amounted to $22.9 million. Russia is the key investor in economy of Armenia ($3 billion), while the U.S. is on the fifth place by this indicator.
Tevan Poghosyan, Armenian MP, a member of the opposition party Heritage, says the U.S.-Armenia agreement signed on May 7 will focus on the implementation of investment projects in Armenia, mainly through the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC). “It should be noted that the given organization once actively promoted the Marriott chain in Armenia,” Poghosyan told EADaily.
For the time being, over 400 companies with U.S. capital operate in Armenia. Contour Global - a U.S. investment company with $250 million investment capital - acquired the Vorotan cascade of hydro power plants in Armenia, which has become the biggest investment in the real sector of Armenia. Now, the company looks to implement a large-scale project in the energy sector Armenia this year.
According to Tevan Poghosyan, Ex-Im Bank (USA) will be supporting the companies that will make investments in Armenia. “It is a new approach to Armenia. Now, the U.S. national institutes will be using their own resources and funds to promote investment projects in Armenia,” the parliamentarian said. He noted that the U.S. does not work with the countries having corruption problems unless it pursues political goals there. “It appears that political interests are behind the U.S. efforts to boost economic cooperation with Armenia.”
Vardan Ayvazyan, the head of the parliamentary Committee for Economic Affairs, a member of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia, in turn, says the agreement shows the high interest of the United States in Armenia and in the region, at large, which is quite natural in the emerging trends in the region where “Turkey seeks to press forward, efforts are made to lift the sanctions siege of Iran, and our ally Russia actively develops its policy. All this increases Armenia’s regional importance for the U.S. and EU,” the politician says.
Manvel Sargsyan, the director of the Armenian Center of National and International Studies, also points at the political context of the agreement. He recalled the Armenian president’s visit to China that resulted in signing of a number of important agreements. On May 12, the Iranian president and Armenia’s ambassador to Tehran discussed efforts to enhance the cooperation of the two countries. Sargsyan sees political and even geopolitical context in all those statements and agreements.
He is sure that for such countries as U.S. and China, trade volumes with Armenia are too small to be important. They pursue political interests in Armenia. The latest agreement with the USA is very important in view of politics, security and military cooperation, Sargsyan told EADaily.
“Playing upon differences, negotiating to gain dividends, opposing the interests of different sides and protecting its own interests are the acknowledged rules of international relations. In this light, Armenia, in view of the weakness of the Eurasian Economic Union and the changes anticipated in the region, tries to expand the frameworks of its balanced policy towards West and Russia, and is preparing for the changing conditions in the region to settle its acute problems,” Manvel Sargsyan said.