By Atom Markarian
U.S. and Armenian officials admitted Tuesday that they have made no further progress towards the signing of a bilateral agreement on the avoidance of double taxation that has long been sought by Yerevan. The Armenian side also failed to secure a deal to restructure its $45 million debt to the U.S.
The issue was high on the agenda of a meeting of the intergovernmental U.S.-Armenia Economic Task Force held in the Armenian capital. The acting American co-chairman of the body, Thomas Adams, said afterwards that the proposed agreement is conditional on amendments to Armenia's economic legislation that would favor U.S. companies. He did not specify what those changes should be.
His Armenian counterpart, Finance and Economy Minister Vartan Khachatrian, declined to comment on his government's position on the U.S. conditions. The government has for years pushed for the tax-exempting arrangement in the hope of facilitating Armenian exports to the U.S. and U.S. investments in the Armenian economy.
Speaking at a joint news conference, Khachatrian mentioned instead the use of continuing U.S. government assistance to Armenia which has totaled about $1.4 billion since 1992. The joint task force was set up three years ago with the primary aim of boosting the effectiveness of the aid. Khachatrian said U.S. money will continue to be spent on a wide range of projects encompassing agriculture, social security and infrastructures, education and health care.
Also discussed was the debt incurred by Armenia for recent years' deliveries of U.S. wheat, with the Armenian government seeking rescheduling of its repayment which is due to begin this year. Khachatrian said the U.S. said did not accept his proposals on the grounds that U.S. law allows for external debt restructuring only in three specific cases none of which is applicable to Armenia.
"Nevertheless, I hope that we will continue to work with the U.S. Treasury and find ways of doing that," he said.
Adams said the U.S. government will provide a total of $119 million worth of assistance to Armenia in the current financial year.