By Shakeh Avoyan
The U.S. state of California, which has a large and influential Armenian community, is likely to open a trade representation in Armenia later this year or early next, a visiting state legislator announced on Wednesday.
State Senator Jack Scott said he will submit a formal motion to that effect next week and expects that it will be approved by the California legislature and signed into law by the state governor. Scott said the office will help boost commercial links between Armenia and California.
The American state already has such missions in 15 countries across the world.
“I believe that this is a win-win situation,” Scott told reporters in Yerevan at the end of his four-day visit. It will take “from several months to a year” to open the California Trade Office, he said.
“It will begin in Armenia. But the idea is that it would also be a springboard for regional trade as well,” he added.
Prime Minister Andranik Markarian backed the idea during a meeting with Scott earlier in the day. He pointed to a memorandum of mutual understanding signed by Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian and the state governor last November.
“I have gathered facts and can go back and enthusiastically report the support of the Armenian government,” Scott said.
California, which is home to an estimated 500,000 ethnic Armenians, is increasingly becoming an export market for Armenian manufacturing firms. The local Armenians have so far been the main buyers of their products which include cigarettes, beer, soft drinks and even ice cream. In addition, California is a key source of regular cash remittances received by many Armenians from their relatives working and living abroad.
Scott argued that Armenian firms have yet to tap the commercial potential of America’s wealthiest state, which has a population of 34 million and is a hugely lucrative market for developing countries. He said: “If products from Armenia are carefully marketed there is a wonderful possibility of their sales occurring in California.”
Scott also said that the Californian trade mission will facilitate U.S. exports to Armenia. Closer economic ties, he continued, will also benefit Armenia’s “burgeoning” information technology sector.
Over a dozen Silicon Valley firms have branches in Armenia that are mainly involved in software development.
Scott’s visit was organized by the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) and its lobbying arm, the Armenian National Committee of America.