Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian again declined to elaborate on the economic wisdom of Armenia’s membership in a Russian-led trade bloc on Friday, emphasizing instead its geopolitical significance to official Yerevan.
“I think the motives for our decision to join the customs union and the Eurasian space are understandable,” Sarkisian said in a speech at an international conference in the Armenian capital. “That enables us to build relations with our strategic partner and main investor on a more fundamental platform and eliminate many inhibiting factors that could arise if Armenia stayed away from the customs union.
“In recent years intensive processes have been taking place within the customs union framework, and if we don’t integrate into the customs union that will create new boundaries between Armenian and Russian economic entities, which is an inadmissible luxury for us. That is why we made a political decision to the effect that economic development must be within the customs union’s framework.”
“This decision must be looked at from different standpoints: geopolitical, cultural, national security standpoints as well as from the standpoint of our relations with Russia, our strategic partner, which have very deep roots,” he added.
Sarkisian made similar remarks last week after visiting Moscow to discuss with Russian officials preparations for the official start of membership talks. He did not explain what exactly Armenia would gain in economic terms.
Economic analysts critical of the Armenian government say that membership of the Russian-led trade bloc would only push up the cost of key goods imported to Armenia and reduce vital proceeds from customs duties collected by Armenian tax authorities. They also argue that Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan account for less than one-quarter of Armenia’s foreign trade.
Sarkisian has not yet commented on these concerns.
The premier himself repeatedly argued against Armenian entry into the customs union before President Serzh Sarkisian’s unexpected September 3 announcement. In particular, he argued that Armenia has no common border with any of the union’s three member states. He also said Armenia has a more liberal trade regime and, unlike Russia and Kazakhstan, lacks vast natural resources.