Membership in the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) will earn Armenia significant benefits, Deputy Prime Minister Vache Gabrielian insisted on Friday, downplaying the worsening economic situation in Russia and other EEU members states.
The Armenian government promised such benefits after President Serzh Sarkisian unexpectedly decided in 2013 to join the Russian-led trade bloc. However, Armenia’s trade with Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan has actually plummeted since the country formally became a member of the EEU in January.
According to Armenian government data, Russian-Armenian trade decreased by 14 percent in the first nine months of this year. The government registered even sharper drops in the much smaller commercial exchanges with Belarus and Kazakhstan.
Data from the EEU’s executive body, the Eurasian Economic Commission, shows that trade among the EEU member states was down by as much as 26 percent in January-August 2015. The commission expects their combined Gross Domestic Product to shrink by 3.3 percent this year and barely grow in 2016.
Gabrielian blamed this grim statistics on the collapse of international oil prices which has hit oil-rich Russia and Kazakhstan very hard. “That has naturally had an impact on 2015,” he told reporters. “But it doesn’t mean that those factors will remain in place in the medium and long term and that there are no prospects for economic growth.”
“The [Armenian] authorities never said that as soon as we join the EEU everything will be fine … The EEU has potential for development and that potential will eventually manifest itself,” he said.
Gabrielian, who coordinates Armenia’s day-to-day relations with the EEU, also argued that the Armenian economy has continued to grow this year despite the ongoing recession in Russia, a key trading partner.