EXCLUSIVE: Armenia would welcome FTA between GCC and Eurasian Economic Union, President Sarkissian says

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By Binsal Abdulkader

ABU DHABI, 21st January, 2020 (WAM) -- Armenia would welcome a Free Trade Agreement, FTA, between the Gulf Cooperation Council states and the Eurasian Economic Union, the President of Armenia told Emirates News Agency, WAM, in an exclusive interview.

The EAEU is an economic union consisting of Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. It came into force in 2015, having a single integrated market with a GDP of almost US$1.9 trillion.

"It is up to the leadership of these [GCC] countries. The moment they express their interest [it can be taken forward]. They can express it directly to the Union or any partner like Armenia," President Armen Sarkissian said in an interview in Abu Dhabi. "If I'm told about it, I would take it up to the Union."

Some countries outside the Eurasian region, such as Singapore, have already signed an FTA with the EAEU, he pointed out. A few others have expressed their interest "to be partners of the Union through an FTA," he added.

The history of the Union dates back to March 1994, when the President of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, voiced the idea of the Eurasian Union of States for the first time at Lomonosov Moscow State University, during his first official visit to Russia.

The Union aims to "raise the competitiveness and cooperation between the national economies and to promote stable development in order to raise the living standards of the nations of the member-states," according to the official website of the Union.

"That means the Union is working. FTAs are not only adding value, but also they are showing there is a right interest and that this Union or space can work," President Sarkissian, 66, affirmed.

"It is not only a fiscal or logistical effect, but also a political effect, saying this is the right thing to do [signing an FTA with EAEU]. This is the right format [of an economic bloc]."

Talking about the advantage of having an alliance with the bloc or setting up a business in Armenia, he said, "There are no customs duties or any additional taxes between the Union's member-states."

"You can place your company in Armenia and do your business in Russia without any problems," he added. "It is a huge market. Moreover, you are dealing with countries that have a deep relationship with the EU. So, that’s an advantage."

Armenia has a unique position in Eurasia, believes Sarkissian who also served as a prime minister between 1996 to 1997 and his country's ambassador to the UK.

"We are a member of the Union on one side and on the other side Armenia has signed a Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement, CEPA, with the EU in 2017," he said. "We are in a unique place to act like a bridge between the EU and Eurasia."

Talking about Armenia's relations with the GCC states, the Armenian president said, "Sky is the limit for our relations; we have got a very good relationship. We are so close, the Gulf is very important to us and we can do so much together."

Armenia has developed its relations with the Gulf in many directions, especially in science and technology sector, he said. "There are so many things we can discuss and work together for the benefit of all parties, which include tourism, energy solutions and climate solutions," the president concluded.

WAM/Binsal AbdulKader/Ibrahim Shukralla