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PM Attends Armenia-Los Angeles Business Forum

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s working visit to the United States, Los Angeles, continues.

On the second day of his visit, Nikol Pashinyan attended the Armenia-Los Angeles business forum. The forum is attended by about 250 participants, many members of the California business community, Los Angeles business community leaders and representatives of the Armenian community in the United States.

Greeting remarks were addressed to the Prime Minister of Armenia and his delegation by Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Maria S. Salinas, Los Angeles World Trade Center (WTCLA) President Stephen Cheung, Los Angeles Business Federation Founding Chief Executive Officer Tracy Hernandez and Los Angeles Central City Association Vice President Tina Oh.

Addressing the forum, Prime Minister Pashinyan stated:
“Distinguished members of the business community of California,
Representatives of the Armenian-American community,
Ladies and gentlemen,

I am delighted to be here tonight, and it is my privilege to address the distinguished members of the Los Angeles business community, including the Armenian Community of the Great State of California.

We see tremendous opportunities for tapping into California’s huge trade and investment potential. It is quite obvious that Armenia is the country which best matches for doing business with California. Winemaking, Information Technologies, tourism, and agriculture are among the most developed sectors of Armenia’s economy. At the same time, these are the areas where California is keeping global leadership for many decades. As we can see there is a fertile ground for joint business initiatives. The existence of a vigorous Armenia community, which is bounding our countries, is yet another compelling argument proving that we should work together to strengthen trade and investment relations between Armenia and California.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Armenia is known for its rich cultural heritage, vibrant history, hospitality, and amazing landscapes. But this is not enough to make the image of our country complete.

Today, we are changing the way we manage our country and our economy. At the same time, we have to ensure that the Armenian economy is dynamic and responsive to the changes that are taking place around the world.

Last year, Armenian people opted for change. We chose freedom and democracy over autocracy and demonstrated that nothing is stronger than a will, belief and action of the people. However, political change is only the first step. We shall translate the will and aspirations of our people into economic and social development. And now “Economic Revolution” is underway in our country.

Economic revolution can be based only on fair and just institutions, equal environment, and impartial treatment to all. It means that the government says NO to corruption, NO to monopolies to encourage creativity and talents of our people and make Armenian economy competitive both in the region and in the world.
I believe our reforms are long-term and strategic. And therefore, economic revolution would have a long lasting effect on the country’s economic development and people’s lives.

Meanwhile, let me share some already recorded results with you: in 2018, we registered a 5.2% economic growth and maintained a moderate inflation rate. These are very positive results for a revolutionary year. We have had a 9% increase in export. Positive dynamics continues this year, with 6.5% growth in the first half of the year. Recently Moody’s has improved Armenia’s rating to “Ba3.”

These results are promising, however, there is much more that needs to be done.

In the rapidly changing world, the old quote is still topical: “We must run as fast as we can, just to stay in place.” And if we wish to go anywhere we must run twice as fast as that. Thus, we need to be faster, more effective and efficient and targeting ambitious goals. This is the cornerstone of our transformation strategy.

We shall clearly understand our advantages, our strength that would move Armenia to a new horizon. We believe that the driving force for this change is a talented, creative and hardworking Armenian. This is the most valuable asset of our country. We know, different eras had different forms of capital, which fueled growth and development. In agrarian societies it was land, during the industrial revolution it was electricity, in the years of the financial boom it was financial capital, but nowadays it is the human being.

If you ask me why you should invest in Armenia, my answer will be investing in Armenia a small country with global networks and gifted people is quite promising. We aim at introducing technological education, developing soft skills, and helping students to identify their aptitude, through investing in primary, vocational and higher education.

Armenia provides an excellent opportunity for investors in areas such as information technologies, tourism, agriculture, manufacturing, energy, and many other spheres.

Our government implements an open-door policy towards foreign investments, providing for the full property ownership. Foreign investors can have unrestricted access to any sector and geographic location within the country, with no restrictions for personnel recruitment, free and unlimited repatriation of profits, unlimited currency exchange on market rates, and guarantees against nationalization.

The five-year grandfather clause protecting foreign investors against investment-related legislation changes is also a part of our foreign investment framework.

With regard to international economic relations, Armenia has bilateral treaties on investment promotion and protection with 43 countries including the United States. Armenia is a member of the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes. We have treaties on avoidance of double taxation and the prevention of fiscal evasion with 46 countries. This means that the investors of contracting parties are granted a number of guarantees, in particular, national treatment, protection from expropriation, free transfer of means and full protection and security.

According to the World Bank, Armenia is ranked 41st among 190 countries at ease of doing business. By ease of starting a business Armenia is the 8th and by registering a property the 14th in the world. According to the Index of Economic Freedom, Armenia is the 47th freest economy in the world.

We continue to carry out deep and comprehensive reforms to improve our business environment. The government is working on legislative reforms to establish the regime of the most-favored-nation to define the guarantees provided for foreign investors, as well as to introduce effective dispute settlement mechanisms. We are currently working on expanding the opportunities and clearly defining the legal framework for public-private partnerships.

“Armenia is a small, landlocked country”, this is a description that you may find in many books and articles. Well, I agree, we are a small country. But, we are a nation of a wide and global network which makes us great.

Armenia is located in a place that bridges cultures and economies. Some may claim that Armenia has a small market, but I am here to challenge that view. Armenia is a part of the Eurasian Economic Union market that has over 180 million consumers. Armenian producers benefit from GSP+ preferential treatment with the European Union, and GSP with the United States and some other countries.

Armenia is also deepening cooperation with the European Union through signing a Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement. This ambitious agreement provides a framework for Armenia and the European Union to work together for the benefit of the citizens of Armenia in the areas of strengthening democracy and human rights, creating more jobs and business opportunities, fairer rules, more safety and security, cleaner environment as well as better education and opportunities for research.

We continue our efforts in deepening cooperation with the United States through many instruments such as the US-Armenia Trade and Investment Framework Agreement, which provides strategic framework and principles for dialogue on trade and investment issues. In a relatively short time, we have managed to transform Armenia into a country with equal opportunities for all, providing incentives for businesses and startups, and making our country a better investment destination.

My call and my message today is to join our efforts to build new Armenia, unite our strength to make Armenia competitive and attractive to live. Let us make Armenia a country of our dream.

Thank you for your attention.”

Remarks were next delivered by RA Minister of High-Tech Industry Hakob Arshakyan, who touched upon the development of information technologies and Armenia’s high-tech industry, and RA Minister of Economy Tigran Khachatryan, who presented Armenia’s economic priorities, the current growth dynamics and investments. Bryan Churchill, a representative of the Foreign Private Investment Corporation, also touched upon the opportunities for developing Armenian-American investment cooperation.

During the business forum, two memorandums of understanding were signed between the Armenian Ministry of High-Tech Industry and the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce and Industry, as well as between the RA Ministry of Economy and the Los Angeles World Trade Center. The memorandums provide that Armenia and Los Angeles will develop cooperation and exchange experiences in the technological sector and in the economy, in particular.

After attending the forum, Prime Minister Pashinyan gave an interview to FoxNews11.

The agenda of the Armenian Prime Minister’s stay in Los Angeles is over. Nikol Pashinyan left for San Jose, where the Prime Minister is scheduled to visit a number of high-tech companies in the Silicon Valley, meet and discuss issues of topical concern with local company executives and Armenian specialists, as well as sign a memorandum of understanding.

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