The possible opening of the Turkish border would significantly benefit the Armenian economy and have little adverse impact on local manufacturers, the chairman of Armenia’s largest business association insisted on Friday.
Arsen Ghazarian, who heads the Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, predicted that cross-border commerce would quickly spur economic activity and create many jobs in Armenian regions bordering Turkey.
“We would also be able to implement serious joint projects in the energy sphere,” he said. “Our two cement plans, which I’m sure are not operating at their full capacity, would be able to meet the Turkish industry’s demand and to make decent profits.
“We would have quite serious projects in the textile sector. I am talking about quite serious turnovers.”
Ghazarian has for years voiced such views in his separate capacity as the Armenian co-chairman of the Turkish-Armenian Business Council (TABC), a private group uniting businessmen from the two neighboring countries. The reopening of the Turkish-Armenian border, a key aim of the TABC, became a real possibility after Ankara and Yerevan unveiled draft agreements on the normalization of bilateral relations.
The prospect of an open border with Turkey has long caused unease among some Armenian politicians, businessmen and economists. They fear that an influx of cheap Turkish imports could wreak havoc on the country’s fledgling manufacturing and farming sectors. Some have gone as far as to declare that the Turkish economic blockade has been a blessing in disguise for Armenia.
Ghazarian brushed aside these concerns at a news conference in Yerevan. “Let’s face it, in our society there is not much enthusiasm for Turkish consumer goods to begin with,” he said.
“Besides, many of our enterprises in the food-processing and plastic items sectors bring in a considerable part of their raw materials from Turkey because it’s close and cheap. In that case [of border opening,] it will be even closer and cheaper,” he added.
Ghazarian further argued that an open border with Turkey will become all the more important in the event of the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and restoration of commercial links between Armenia and Azerbaijan. That, he said, would turn Armenia into a regional transit country linking Turkey to Azerbaijan and Central Asia.