Armenia has not completed its trade negotiations with Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan and it is still not known when it will join their Customs Union, Economy Minister Karen Chshmaritian said on Tuesday.
He denied any serious disagreements in the talks, saying that the parties have already worked out key terms of Armenia’s membership in the bloc, which is expected to be transformed into a Eurasian Economic Union later this month.
Chshmaritian’s predecessor Vahram Avanesian and other Armenian officials said earlier this year that President Serzh Sarkisian will sign an accession treaty with his Russian, Belarusian and Kazakh counterparts in Minsk on April 29. Sarkisian did not take part in the summit for unknown reasons, however. In his absence, the presidents of the three member states instructed the union’s executive body to draft the treaty with Armenia by June 1.
Chshmaritian was asked by journalists whether that means it will be signed by June 1. “Everything depends on the negotiations,” he replied. “Things will be clear after the negotiations are over,” he said, adding that the parties have set no deadlines for reaching a final agreement.
The talks have focused on significant trade preferences sought by the Armenian government. The latter specifically wants to have hundreds of types of imported goods exempted from much higher tariffs set by the Customs Union.
According to Chshmaritian, the negotiating sides have already drawn up a list of 800 such items that will continue to be covered by Armenia’s liberal trade regime. “The list of [exempted] goods can already be considered to have been agreed upon,” he said. “There are several technical issues connected with parallel imports. I think they too will be solved.”
Opening the Minsk summit, Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko spoke out against granting new member states “any special terms or statuses.” Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev appeared to back this stance.
Chshmaritian refused to comment on these objections. He insisted only that Belarus and Kazakhstan are not obstructing Armenia’s accession. “Every country protects its interests,” he said. “And since different countries have different interests, they also have different approaches to different issues.”