A senior U.S. State Department official sounded optimistic about the success of ongoing efforts to expand Armenia’s commercial ties with the United States at the start of a visit to Yerevan on Wednesday.
Bridget Brink, the U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, met with President Serzh Sarkisian and Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian ahead of an annual meeting of the U.S.-Armenia Task Force (USATF).
The intergovernmental body has coordinated U.S. economic assistance provided to Armenia over the decade. It only increasingly deals with problems hampering bilateral trade and U.S. investments in the Armenian economy.
Brink described the USATF meeting scheduled for Thursday as the “primary purpose” of her trip. “It’s something that I am actually very optimistic about,” she told a news conference. The two sides are committed to “stronger economic ties and more trade and investment,” she added.
Richard Mills, the U.S. ambassador in Yerevan, said last week that the meeting will focus on the Armenian government’s efforts to combat corruption, improve the domestic investment climate and reform the civil aviation sector as well as Armenia’s “future energy strategy.” Mills said that a real fight against corruption is critical for attracting more U.S. investment in the Armenian economy.
Brink emphasized U.S. assistance to Yerevan’s declared anti-graft efforts, saying that it “helps to protect Armenia from foreign influence as well as helps Armenia build its economy and develop democratically.” She did not elaborate on that influence.
Brink began her visit one day after another intergovernmental body, the U.S.-Armenia Council on Trade and Investment, held its inaugural session in Yerevan. The council was set up shortly after the U.S. and Armenian governments signed a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) in Washington in May. It is tasked with addressing obstacles to bilateral commercial ties.
Sarkisian stressed the importance of the TIFA when he met with Brink. According to the presidential press service, he also praised “strong partnership” between the U.S. an Armenia.