ANCA: No New Trade Deals while Turkey Blockades Armenia, Occupies Cyprus

WASHINGTON—During testimony on May 29 before the U.S. Trade Policy Staff Committee (USTPSC), Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) Government Affairs Director Kate Nahapetian called upon the U.S. government to condition Turkey’s participation in any new transatlantic trade initiatives on Ankara immediately lifting its blockade of Armenia and ending its occupation of Cyprus.

Nahapetian offered the ANCA’s testimony during the first of two days of public hearings regarding the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). The hearing was chaired by Doug Bell, who heads the TPSC, and included representative from a broad range of U.S. agencies, such as the Departments of Treasury, State, Commerce, Transportation, and Health and Human Services.

“Turkey’s blockade of Armenia, a landlocked nation, which has been in force for more than two decades and prevents an important east-west trade route, is among the longest-standing in modern history,” explained Nahapetian. “This blockade is all the more objectionable, since Turkey’s act of economic aggression is targeted against the very Armenian people that Turkey’s predecessor state, the Ottoman Empire, attempted to exterminate during the Armenian Genocide.”

Nahapetian went on to point out, “We are particularly concerned about Turkey’s unwillingness to comply with previous trade agreements. Since its 2005 Customs Union Agreement with the European Union, Turkey has refused to implement the requirements of beginning to normalize relations with the Republic of Cyprus, a European Union member, and opening its ports and airports to Cyprus. Turkey must demonstrate that it no longer flagrantly violates trade obligations before being granted any preferential treatment under the Transatlatic Trade and Investment Partnership.”

During a question and answer session with Bell and U.S. Assistant Trade Representative for Europe and the Middle East Dan Mullaney, Nahapetian discussed the ANCA’s commitment to the expansion of the U.S.-Armenia trade relationship, focusing specifically on the benefits to bilateral commerce that could be realized through the negotiation of a U.S.-Armenia Double Tax Treaty and a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement.

The Turkish government, has, in recent months, lobbied Washington aggressively for inclusion in a proposed far-ranging TTIP between the U.S. and the European Union, as well as for its own U.S.-Turkey bilateral free trade agreement. The ANCA, along with the American Hellenic Institute (AHI) and the Hellenic American Leadership Council (HALC), has submitted a joint written statement to the USTPSC encouraging the U.S. government to require, as a pre-condition for any new trade deals involving Turkey, that Ankara fully withdraw its military occupation of Cyprus, unconditionally lift its illegal economic blockade of Armenia, and end all obstacles to trade, investment, and other forms of commerce it has imposed upon Cyprus and Armenia.

The full text of the joint AHI-HALC-ANCA testimony is available on the ANCA website at www.anca.org/press_releases/press_releases.php?prid=2274.

Also offering testimony will be a broad range of corporate, labor, citizens, and trade associations, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, AFL-CIO, American Insurance Association, Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, Software Information Industry Association, Electronic Privacy Information Center, Public Citizen, U.S. Public Interest Research Group, Consumer Federation of America, Underwriters Laboratories, Biotechnology Industry Organization, Transatlantic Business Council, American Association of Exporters and Importers, American Apparel and Footwear Association, and American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers.

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Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership

Public Hearing

Docket Number USTR-2013-0019

May 29, 2013

Washington, DC

 

Hello, my name is Kate Nahapetian and I am Government Affairs Director for the Armenian National Committee of America, the largest Armenian-American advocacy group.

We welcome the opportunity to share our views regarding U.S. negotiating priorities and the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) with the European Union.

I will summarize the concerns we outlined in our joint statement with the American Hellenic Institute and the Hellenic American Leadership Council, leading organizations of the Greek American community.

Our concerns relate primarily to the Turkish government’s stated interest in joining this agreement, although Turkey is not a European Union member, as well as public comments by Turkish leaders and others regarding a possible U.S.-Turkey Free Trade Agreement. Although the President’s notice to Congress of his intention to negotiate this agreement made it clear that the agreement would be between the United States and the European Union and inclusion of Turkey in this process would require additional notice to Congress, we wanted to share our concerns nevertheless.

In the course of any talks or negotiations related to such agreements, we call on the President to be guided by the Trade Act of 1974 which affirms our nation’s commitment “to establish fairness and equity in international trading relations,” a principle that the government of Turkey regularly violates.

More specifically, we call upon to the Obama Administration to ensure that the TTIP, related agreements, and any bilateral agreements that may directly or indirectly involve the Republic of Turkey require, as a statutory precondition, that the Turkish government 1) unconditionally lift its illegal economic blockade of Armenia, 2) fully withdraw its unlawful and brutal military occupation of Cyprus, an EU member, and 3) immediately end all obstacles to trade, investment, and other forms of commerce it currently imposes on Cyprus and Armenia. The blockade of Armenia, a landlocked nation, which has been in force for more than two decades and prevents an important East-West trade route, is among the longest-standing in modern history. This blockade is all the more objectionable, since Turkey’s act of economic aggression is targeted against the very Armenian people that Turkey’s predecessor state, the Ottoman Empire, attempted to exterminate during the Armenian Genocide.

Within days of signing an agreement in October 2009 to end its blockade of Armenia regardless of any progress on the Nagorno-Karabagh peace process, Turkey reneged on the agreement and insisted that it would not end its blockade until the Nagorno-Karabagh conflict was resolved in Azerbaijan’s favor.

The World Bank, U.S. State Department, and European Parliament reports have all outlined the devastating impact of Turkey’s blockade against Armenia, which has been in place for over a decade.

The traditional railroad linking Armenia, Turkey, and Azerbaijan could be operational within days, but instead of allowing this rail system to run, Turkey is financing the construction of an entirely new railroad system that would circumvent Armenia and traverse Georgia to reach Azerbaijan at a cost of over $600 million.

In yet another example of Turkey’s efforts to hamper rather than promote free trade, Turkey invoked the rarely used Article XIII of the Marrakesh Agreement establishing the WTO, when Armenia joined the WTO in 2002, meaning that it would not abide by any WTO obligations as they apply to Armenia. Article XIII has been invoked only eight times and only three are still maintained, one of them being Turkey’s invocation against Armenia.

We are particularly concerned about Turkey’s unwillingness to comply with previous trade agreements. Since its 2005 Customs Union Agreement with the European Union, Turkey has refused to implement the requirements of beginning to normalize relations with the Republic of Cyprus, a European Union member, and opening its ports and airports to Cyprus. Turkey must demonstrate that it no longer flagrantly violates trade obligations before being granted any preferential treatment under TTIP.

The implementation of any provision of such agreements related to Turkey should be conditional upon official annual certification by the President and subsequent confirmation by the Congress that Turkey has, over the past twelve months, fully complied with these conditions. These requirements, if enforced, will support and strengthen U.S. leadership in promoting a multilateral rule-of-law based trading system, and, more broadly, in encouraging compliance by Turkey and other countries with international agreements to promote trade.

We welcome, as a general principle, the U.S. Trade Representative’s commitment to the expansion of U.S. trade and investment based on “fairness and equity in international trading relations” that require respect for the rule of law. We hold, however, that, in the case of Turkey, we would not advance our national interests, further our economic prosperity, or promote our core values by rewarding a nation that so egregiously and flagrantly undermines the integrity of the global trading system by occupying a European Union member state and refusing to end its two decade blockade of landlocked Armenia. Moreover, any inclusion of Turkey in an already complex process involving multiple European Union member states would create serious complications and disruptions to the process.

We would welcome the opportunity to meet with the Trade Policy Staff Committee to discuss our priorities and proposals on this matter in greater detail.

Guest Contributor

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