PASADENA, CA – Less than two weeks after the California State legislature voted in both chambers in favor of establishing a California international trade and investment office in the Republic of Armenia, Governor Gray Davis signed the bill into law this afternoon in the State Capitol. The signing of Senate Bill 1657, introduced by Senator Jack Scott(D-Pasadena) earlier this year was the culmination of a three year grassroots effort by the ANCA-WR and over ten local ANC chapters to establish formal trade relations between the Republic of Armenia and California.
“The establishment of the trade office initiates a new era in the way California does business with overseas markets. It is the first time California has ventured into the former Soviet Union with an official trade presence and there is no better place to establish that then in the Republic of Armenia – a fast growing economy with strong ties to California and on the traditional crossroads of the trade routes where East meets West,” said Steven J. Dadaian, Chairman of the ANCA-WR at a joint teleconference with the Governor in Senator Scott’s district office in Pasadena. Also participating in the conference call was the Counsel General of Armenia, Valery Mkrtumyan.
California will now become the first state in the United States to have a trade presence in Armenia. Armenia, which in 1991 gained its independence from the Soviet Union, was the first former Soviet Republic to privatize agriculture and continues to privatize small businesses and state-run enterprises. Since independence, the Republic has shown steady positive economic growth while maintaining a stable currency. It has been hailed as a model democratic republic in the region and represents the ideal location for a California trade office.
“California will be gaining inroads to a large area with excellent economic potential,” commented Senator Scott after the Governor signed his bill into law. “This California-Armenia partnership, combined with California’s large Armenian community, will create many positive opportunities — in business, trade, investment, education and tourism,” the Senator added.
“The ANCA-WR commends Governor Gray Davis for signing Senator Scott’s bill, SB 1657 into law. The passage of this bill marks a significant step forward in the economic partnership between California and the Republic of Armenia. The office’s success will be a model for other trade offices to follow,” stated ANCA-WR board member Berdj Karapetian.
Mr. Karapetian accompanied Senator Scott on an exploratory mission to Armenia earlier this year to study the feasibility of establishing a trade office in the Republic. During the trip to Armenia, Senator Scott and ANCA-WR representatives met with business and industry leaders in Armenia to discuss potential areas of cooperation. Potential for trade and the exchange of ideas was identified in the areas of information technologies, bio-tech, agriculture and tourism.
Armenia has made significant advancements in computer technology and telecommunication, which can open new markets for California’s high-tech and biotech industries.
The idea of a California Trade Office in Armenia has been considered by the State Legislature for more than 3 years and contributed to the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between California Governor Gray Davis and Armenia’s Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian in November of last year. The ANCA-WR pushed for the establishment of a trade office as the next natural step to improve trade and investment between Armenia and California.
Unlike other current trade offices, the California-Armenia trade office not only requires a comprehensive evaluation of its success but will require new authorization by the State for its operation beyond January 1, 2006. The study of the office’s economic impact on trade, investment and tourism in California and the Trans-Caucasus region would be a model for other current and future trade offices.
The State of California currently has trade offices in Germany, the United Kingdom, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Israel, Mexico, the Republic of South Africa, Taiwan, and Japan.
There are some seven million Armenians throughout the world, including over one and a half million in the United States. There are over 500,000 Armenians and Armenians of American descent living in California, with the largest concentrations living in Glendale at 70,000; Pasadena at 15,000; and Fresno at 25,000.
The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) is the largest and most influential Armenian American grassroots political organization. Working in coordination with a network of offices, chapters, and supporters throughout the United States and affiliated organizations around the world, the ANCA actively advances the concerns of the Armenian American community on a broad range of issues.