Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian said late on Thursday that he has not changed his views about the customs union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan after President Serzh Sarkisian’s surprise decision to make Armenia part of the Russian-led bloc.
“No, my position is clear,” the premier told journalists while heading to a meeting of the leadership of the ruling Republican Party. He said President Sarkisian’s September 3 decision did not take him by surprise but refused to comment further.
Tigran Sarkisian repeatedly voiced serious misgivings about Armenian entry into the customs union in his earlier public statements on the issue. In particular, he argued that Armenia has no common border with any of the union’s three member states.
Sarkisian came up with another argument in a February interview with the liberal Russian daily “Moskovskie Novosti.” He said Armenia has a more liberal trade regime and lacks vast natural resources.
“The structure of the Armenian economy is very different from that of the economies of the customs union’s countries that have substantial deposits of energy resources and pursue a policy of supporting domestic manufacturers through quite high customs duties,” the prime minister said at the time. “On the whole, the level of such duties in the Customs Union is twice higher than those levied in Armenia.”
Armenia will now have to adjust its customs legislation accordingly. Economists warn that this will significantly push up the cost of some imported foodstuffs and other products in the domestic market. Tigran Sarkisian has not yet publicly commented on this and other economic aspects of joining the customs union.
President Sarkisian, who faced strong pressure from Moscow, has likewise not addressed the nation after his September 3 talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin.