United States Ambassador Richard Mills believes the recent political changes in Armenia will help bring more American trade and investments to the South Caucasus country.
“I am confident that this new chapter in the Armenian history is going to spark a lot of interest from U.S. businesspeople – whether they are members of the [Armenian] Diaspora or not – in trading with Armenia and investing in Armenia,” Mills said on Wednesday evening while attending a festive event in Yerevan dedicated to U.S. Independence Day.
Mills said he already witnessed that interest last week in Washington where he attended a Smithsonian Folklife Festival, which this year is featuring Armenian culture.
“And I heard from the Diaspora Americans and also from American businesspeople of all backgrounds that they were very interested in Armenia if the new government follows through on its commitments to make this a more equitable society, a more level-playing field for all businesses and if they can root out some of the problems of corruption,” he said.
“And I think American businesses are interested in some of the key sectors that the government is also focused on – IT, agriculture, tourism and energy, in particular. So, I am confident we are going to see more trade, more investments in the years to come.”
In his congratulatory message to U.S. President Donald Trump on July 4 Nikol Pashinian, who became Armenia’s prime minister on the wave of anti-government protests in April-May, expressed readiness to “strengthen and expand” Armenia’s relationship with the United States.
“The new political and social realities that emerged following the revolution [in Armenia] allow us to upgrade our relations to a qualitatively new level… We are ready to do everything possible to strengthen and expand our bilateral relations, based on shared values, mutual respect and an atmosphere of trust,” he said.
In his message to Trump, the 43-year-old premier also praised large-scale U.S. assistance provided to Armenia since independence.
Earlier, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo did not rule out that resumed assistance to Armenia will be considered by the Millennium Challenge Corporation.
Armenia received $177 million under Washington’s Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) program for the rehabilitation of its rural irrigation networks a decade ago. The U.S. froze further MCA aid after a disputed 2008 presidential election that was followed by a harsh government crackdown on the Armenian opposition.
The administration of former President Serzh Sarkisian tried unsuccessfully to restore Yerevan’s eligibility for the aid scheme in the following years. U.S. officials said, among other things, that it was not doing enough to combat widespread corruption.
Answering the question from RFE/RL’s Armenian Service on prospects of resumed U.S. assistance under the MCA program, Ambassador Mills said on Wednesday that he did not have any “new news” on that. But he added: “Again the way the Millennium Challenge Corporation works is that Armenia will have to meet some criteria, hit some standards in the areas of fighting corruption, political liberty, media freedom. So, we will be working with the government to encourage them, to support them in making some changes that will help Armenia meet those criteria so that next year, when the Millennium Challenge Corporation is deciding on compacts, Armenia can be considered.”
“I know that the Armenian people and the Armenian government want to make those changes. They want to fight corruption, they want to make it a more free society, a more just society, because it is good for Armenia, not just because it might get a compact from the Millennium Challenge. It’s really what Armenia needs and what I heard the Armenian people were demanding on the streets two months ago,” the U.S. ambassador to Armenia concluded.