ArmInfo. "My first priority has been to deepen the business and trade relations between our two countries, as part of an overall focus on boosting Armenia's prospects for economic growth," U.S. Ambassador to Armenia Richard Mills said in his remarks to American Chamber of Commerce of Armenia in Yerevan on Feb 1.
"In keeping with the agricultural metaphor, let me mention first our ongoing contributions to Armenia's agricultural development. Over the past two years, USAID has assessed this is a sector with significant economic and job potential - as well as the most effective way to prevent the migration out of rural villages - and that justifies new allocation of resources. So, USAID helped establish six new Farm and Veterinary Service Centers where local farmers can learn best practices in farm business development and animal breeding. USAID also provided direct support to Armenian rural producers by supporting their participation in local and international trade expos and festivals, helping to establish rural agricultural cooperatives that boost local economies and create jobs. Thanks to these activities, in the past year alone forty-one new businesses have been established, an additional forty-one start-ups have received additional financing from USAID, and over 650 temporary and permanent jobs in rural villages have been created," Ambassador Mills said.
He added that the Embassy has also pursued several initiatives in the fields of entrepreneurship and STEM, which stands for science, technology, engineering, and math.
"Since the primary focus of my economic priority was the deepening of direct business ties between the U.S. and Armenia, I am delighted to report that we have made considerable progress this past year," he said, noting that ContourGlobal completed the acquisition of the assets of the Vorotan hydroelectric facility in 2016, and now represents the largest single U.S. private investment in Armenia's history and the first U.S. investment in Armenia's energy sector. In addition, ContourGlobal plans to invest more than 70 million dollars over the next several years - and create about 150 near-term jobs.
"Meanwhile, another U.S.-affiliated firm, Lydian International, started the construction of its Amulsar mining project in 2016. By 2018, Amulsar will likely represent the largest U.S. equity investment in Armenia, with construction costs estimated at 370 million dollars from 2016 to 2018. During the peak construction phase up to 1,300 jobs will be secured, while 700 people will be employed directly by Lydian Armenia during 10 years of production. I am happy to report that in a first for Armenia and mining operations here, Amulsar's Environmental and Social Impact Assessment has been deemed fully compliant with standards set by the World Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. Investment from ContourGlobal and Lydian will amount to about half a billion dollars over the next few years. Both companies also have been high-profile models of the concept of Corporate Social Responsibility in their respective interactions with local communities and by doing so, have encouraged its development among local Armenian companies as well," Richard Mills said.
One area where Ambassador Mills would encourage the Armenian government to be more active is Customs, because the simplified and transparent implementation of customs procedures is a necessary prerequisite for Armenia to expand trade with the rest of the world. "Although I recognize that Armenia has to harmonize its customs and other trade facilitation procedures to conform to those of the Eurasian Economic Union, I encourage the Armenian government not to lose sight of its continuing obligations with regard to the World Trade Organization and its other international trading partners. I specifically suggest that the Armenian government further review its use of "reference pricing" and classification procedures for goods imported from abroad, as these can create barriers to large-scale international trade and negatively impact Armenian consumers," Ambassador Mills said.