President Serzh Sarkisian urged the Russian government on Monday to simplify its customs procedures for cargos shipped to and from Armenia through Russia’s sole border crossing with Georgia.
Sarkisian stressed the importance of the Upper Lars crossing for Armenia’s commerce with the other Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) member states when he spoke at a summit of the Russian-led trade bloc in Saint Petersburg.
“In the absence of a common border with EEU countries, our trade link is maintained through the Upper Lars crossing in Georgia,” he said. “Unfortunately, due to a number of circumstances -- weather conditions, bureaucratic procedures -- the work of that crossing is periodically disrupted, which inflicts serious damage on our economic entities.”
“In this regard, we attach great importance to the creation of separate passage for vehicles belonging to EEU member states, which would significantly facilitate cargo shipments. That would give businesspeople in our countries a real sense of usefulness of our union,” added the Armenian leader.
Upper Lars is a key transport route for Armenia’s import and export operations with Russia, its number one trading partner. Traffic through the border crossing is frequently blocked by blizzards in winter months. Hundreds of Armenian trucks were left stranded there for over two weeks after heavy snowfalls closed the mountainous road earlier this month.
Armenian entrepreneurs also frequently complain about long lines, slow service and even corruption among customs officials on the Russian side of the checkpoint.
Despite these problems, Armenia’s trade with Russia rose by over 13 percent in in the first ten months of this year, according to Armenian government data. The increase was driven by a 53 percent surge in Armenian exports to Russia.
The government also recorded sharp rises in Armenia’s exports to two other EEU countries, Belarus and Kazakhstan, in the same period.
In his speech at the Saint Petersburg summit, Sarkisian gave a mixed assessment of the EEU’s two-year-long existence. He said that the trade bloc has helped its ex-Soviet member states “considerably weaken destructive consequences of external economic shocks.” He described the EEU’s new Customs Code adopted at the summit as a “major step towards our further integration.”
Sarkisian asserted at the same that the EEU has yet to live up to “expectations of business and citizens related to the union’s role in modernizing our economies and improving the quality of life.”