In Rome President Serzh Sargsyan Met With The Representatives Of The



President Serzh Sargsyan, who is in Italy on a working visit, last
night met with the representatives of the business community of
the country.


Statement by President Serzh Sargsyan at the meeting with the
representatives of the Italian business community

Distinguished Businessmen, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I cordially greet you and initiators of this important initiative.

Ages-long Armenian-Italian friendship is anchored in the spiritual
and cultural commonalities of our two nations. The geographical
position has never been an impediment for the incessant deepening of
our friendship which was formed centuries ago.

In the area of trade and economy too, our cooperation has deep
historical roots. In Italy, first references related to the Armenian
merchants date back to the 6th century. In 12-14 centuries, Cilician
Armenia and various Italian cities ~V Genoa, Venice, Pisa, Florence,
established closed trade relations. Some of these cities even had
their consulates in Cilicia.

Imagine this: Cilicia granted free trade and other privileges to
the merchants of Genoa back in 1201, and hundred years later same
privileges were granted to the merchants of Florence. Today, we
actually negotiate with the European Union over having free trade with
Italy, returning thus to the point where we had been 800 years ago.

After the fall of the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia, close
Armenian-Italian trade relations had been maintained: Armenians began
to make their contribution to the economic development of the Italian
cities, promoting profitable trade among the Black Sea region states.

I would like to invite your attention to the fact that even in the
absence of statehood our nations managed to deepen economic relations.

Hence, today, when we, Armenians, have reestablished our statehood,
there is every reason to develop and deepen our trade and economic
relations. Today, our trade relations does not properly reflect the
level of our political relations. We should work toward bringing our
economic relation in line with our current political relations and
today~Rs meeting is a step in that direction.

A number of basic documents, which regulate the trade and economic
area of our relations, have created a good base for the development
of the Armenian-Italian cooperation. The overall turnover between
Armenia and Italy in nine months of 2011 has increased compared to the
same period of time last year by 50 percent, however it reached only
130 millions. Of course, fifty percent sounds fine but the absolute
number is very small and cannot satisfy us.

Italian capital is present particularly in Armenia~Rs construction,
hotels and light industries. Success in these areas is evident and,
I believe, the Italian businessmen feel comfortable in our country.

However, I would like to note that the amount of the Italian
investments in negligible: it is two times less than the investments
from Cyprus, three times less than the investments from the
Netherlands, six times less than German investments, eight times
less that Greek and twelve times less than French investments. And
if your European partners have been able to establish useful links in
Armenia, I am confident, that the Italian entrepreneurs can do it too,
probably with a greater success. Nowadays, we are implementing huge
programs in infrastructure and energy sectors. We are building the
North-South highway which will connect the Black Sea ports with the
ports at the Persian Gulf. Construction of the North-South railroad
is also under consideration. Works for the construction of a new unit
of the Armenian nuclear power station, which will further strengthen
Armenia~Rs position on the regional energy market, are also under
consideration. Our Russian and French partners have already expressed
desire to participate in these programs. Naturally, I urge Italian
businessmen to cooperate with us actively in these areas. I also
invite your attention to the cooperation opportunities opening with
the establishment in Armenia of Free Economic Zones. Other areas of
interest for the Italian business can be woodworking industry and
furniture production, jewelry, agriculture, processing and preserving
of agricultural products, etc. I believe tourism too can become a
very promising area.

I would like to mention yet another area of cooperation. Small and
medium enterprises constitute the backbone of the Italian economy
which can be the best example for Armenia. We are particularly
interested in cooperating with Italy in that area, as well as to study
Italian experience taking into consideration similar temperament and
mentality of our peoples, especially their pronounced predisposition
for family business. I trust, we will have an opportunity to speak
at greater length about economic reforms in Armenia. However I would
like to note that the current macroeconomic situation in Armenia
is assessed as stable, financial and monetary situation is steady,
while reforms implemented in different areas are meant to constantly
raise investment attractiveness as well as to ensure a free and secure
business environment.

The inauguration of the Eastern Partnership has elevated Armenia-EU
relations to a qualitatively new level. It will open new and serious
prospects for the Armenian-Italian cooperation too. Negotiations are
underway on the Armenia-EU Association agreement and soon negotiations
on the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Zone will also kick off.

After the conclusion of the negotiations and signing of the documents,
Armenia will have a system of the utmost integrated and liberal
economic relations with EU. Today Armenia already utilizes the
Generalized System of Preferences Plus regime. It is granted to a very
limited number of countries and proves that Armenia has a good system
of governance and creates a considerably privileged regime of trade
between the Republic of Armenia and EU member states. We are also
going to sign an agreement on the liberalization of the visa regime.

Besides, we are envisaging large-scale reforms with the financial and
expert assistance of the European structures in the tax and customs
area, judicial system, simplification of business procedures which
will considerably facilitate your business opportunities in Armenia.

We are ready to discuss the issue of privileges not only at the
executive but also at the legislative level.

Allow me to once again welcome the participants of this meeting,
thank you for your time and express hope that during our next meeting
we will register some tangible results.

Thank you.

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