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Armenia has asked the European Union to make a number of major concessions in their ongoing free trade negotiations, a senior Armenian official revealed on Tuesday.

Deputy Economy Minister Garegin Melkonian, the chief Armenian negotiator, said Yerevan wants Brussels to allow it to continue levying import duties from some EU goods for several years after the planned creation of a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA).

The DCFTA will be part of a broader Association Agreement which Armenia and the EU plan to finalize by the end of this year. It will lead to not only the mutual lifting of all trade barriers but also harmonization of Armenian economic laws and regulations with relevant EU legislation.

Melkonian said the Armenian government is now anxious to make the planned trade liberalization “smoother” for manufacturing sectors of the domestic economy.
“Those are mainly agricultural products and prepared foodstuffs,” he said. “There are also some consumer goods which we manufacture at the moment and which have a potential for development.”

Armenia - EU (L) and Armenian officials begin a new round of free trade talks in Yerevan, 16Apr2013.

Armenia - EU (L) and Armenian officials begin a new round of free trade talks in Yerevan, 16Apr2013.

“We are seeking a transitional period of three, five and -- for some products -- even seven years,” he told reporters at the start of a fifth round of Armenia-EU talks on the DCFTA in Yerevan.

According to Melkonian, Yerevan also would like the EU to allow manufacturers of Armenian brandy to continue labeling it as “cognac.” EU regulations stipulate that only brandy distilled in or near the French town of Cognac can bear its name.

Armenian brandy has for decades been known as “cognac” in the former Soviet Union. Russia and other ex-Soviet states remain the principal market for the popular alcoholic beverage.

“These specificities need to be taken into account,” said Melkonian. “Discussions on this issue [with the EU] are not yet over.”

“We have also discussed this issue very meticulously with our private sector. I hope that we will work out a solution that will conform to international commercial law and at the same time will not harm our manufacturers,” added the Armenian official.

Armenia’s largest and most famous brandy company is owned by the French group Pernod Ricard, one of the world’s leading liquor producers.

Luc Devigne, the chief EU negotiator, did not comment on the trade concessions sought by the Armenian side during a news briefing. Devigne stressed instead that the DCFTA talks are part of a broader process that will require wide-ranging reforms in Armenia. “Good laws are good but implementing laws is better,” he said.
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