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EC fact-finding trip heralds first steps towards stronger trade relations with Armenia

Public Radio of Armenia

EC fact-finding trip heralds first steps towards stronger trade relations with Armenia

17 February 2009

A European Commission’s experts team led by Director Ms Ewa Synowiec from Directorate General for Trade will carry out a fact-finding mission to Yerevan on 18-19 February. This mission will help in mapping out a preparatory process for possible future negotiations of an ambitious free trade agreement (FTA) between the European Union (EU) and Armenia. Deeper economic ties are a key element in the EU’s Neighbourhood Policy and the new Eastern Partnership initiative launched last December.

The European Commission’s team will hold 2 days of meetings at both technical and senior level with Armenian officials. These discussions should enable the European Commission to identify priorities for reforms which would help Armenia’s prepare itself for the launch of negotiations of a deep and comprehensive free trade agreement with the EU.

Such an FTA is an ambitious project. It would considerably upgrade the present trade ties by offering both sides preferential access to each other’s markets, supporting economic reforms in Armenia and offering new opportunities for Armenian businesses. Implementing the recommendations will help Armenia to enjoy the benefits of an agreement more quickly. The EU is committed to continuing to assist Armenia in its reform work, including by providing technical assistance.

A possible future FTA between the EU and Armenia which is one of the most important elements of the Eastern Partnership would lead to Armenia’s genuine integration with the EU in the area of trade and economy, thus bringing in the medium and longer term economic benefits to the Armenian companies and consumers. Concretely, an ambitious bilateral FTA would not only gradually remove the remaining tariffs in the bilateral trade in goods, but also provide for a deep liberalisation of provision of services, flow of investments, and anchor Armenia’s systemic reforms through gradual approximation of her legislation and practices with the relevant EU law and procedures.

To this end the Armenian Government has been invited to concentrate its efforts on proper implementation and enforcement of adopted law and strengthening institutional capacity. This would have a positive impact on transparency and predictability of Armenia’s legislative framework and hence create a business friendly environment for domestic companies and foreign investors and as a result contribute to the economic growth, diversification of the economy and creation of jobs.

The independent feasibility study on a possible future EU-Armenia FTA finalised in May 2008 has concluded that Armenia has made some progress in creating these conditions, but additional efforts are necessary. Therefore at this stage, the EU and Armenia are not yet negotiating an FTA, but are aiming at streamlining a process towards creating conditions for preparing respective negotiating mandates by both sides and opening such negotiations in the future. In order to accelerate this preparatory process the European Commission has decided to carry-out a large fact-finding mission to Armenia. This mission will in particular aim at assessing which priority reform steps the Armenian authorities should take and how the EU could assist them in their efforts, including by means of specific technical assistance projects. This mission will build on the positive experience of the Commission’s customs mission to Armenia carried out last July.

As regards the EU technical assistance, it is in particular worth noting that the instruments of Twinning, TAIEX and SIGMA, that proved their pertinence in addressing regulatory approximation issues in case of the new EU Member States, are available to Armenia. Furthermore, the EU will provide a high level adviser to the Minister of Economy, within the new EU advisory Group to be deployed in various Armenian institutions, to provide guidance on the preparatory process for a possible future bilateral FTA.