Joint Press Conference by Nikol Pashinyan and Tigran Sargsyan following EAEU Intergovernmental Council Meeting
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After the EAEU Intergovernmental Council’s meeting in Yerevan, Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan and Eurasian Economic Commission Board Chairman Tigran Sargsyan held a joint press conference. Nikol Pashinyan and Tigran Sargsyan made statements for the press and answered journalists’ questions.
Below is the full text of the press conference.
Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan:
“Dear mass media representatives,
Dear Tigran Surenovich,
I want to express our satisfaction with the today’s session of the Eurasian Intergovernmental Commission. We hope that this session, as well as other initiatives held under Armenia’s presidency within the framework of the Eurasian Economic Union, will help us further the integration process and record practical results first of all for the citizens of our countries. Armenia is interested in increasing the effectiveness of integration processes within the Union and is ready to make the necessary efforts to reach that goal.
13 issues were on the agenda of today’s meeting. Many of them are important in terms of achieving deeper integration. In particular, I mean the implementation of one of the priorities of the Digital Agenda. We have discussed ways of shaping a digital eco-trading system within the EAEU, which is crucial for developing online trading.
The use of electronic digital signatures in contacts between the executive authorities and business entities in Armenia, Russia and Kyrgyzstan was discussed during the meeting. This issue was raised the Armenian side, and we are glad that our partners expressed readiness to support the motion.
We also discussed the Industrial Cooperation and Technology Transfer Eurasia Network project. Its main purpose is to create an ecosystem of partnership formation, involve small and medium-sized enterprises in major chains of manufacturers, as well as stimulate innovative processes through technology transfer.
Our agenda also comprised the elimination of the conditions impeding the activities of the Eurasian Economic Union’s internal market. I would also like to highlight the decision concerning the one-stop-shop mechanism in streamlining foreign economic activities.
EAEC Board Chairman Tigran Sargsyan will probably give more detail on the decisions passed in the Union, and I would like to express my gratitude to the participants of today’s session for efficacious proceedings.
I would like to state our readiness to host other EAEU events in Yerevan.
We will be pleased to welcome the Heads of State at the forthcoming regular session of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council to be held in Armenia this October.
Eurasian Economic Commission Board Chairman Tigran Sargsyan:
“Thank you, Nikol Vovayevich. Dear mass media representatives,
First of all, I would like to draw your attention to the fact that we usually discuss issues where a consensus and the prime ministers’ approval are required in order to adopt political decisions. And we can state today that we have agreed on all 13 items. Now, I would like to refer to some of the problematic issues that we had on the agenda.
The first problematic issue consists in the barriers and restrictions on the way to forming common markets. We submit quarterly reports to the prime ministers on the situation that is developing in our common markets in order to create more favorable conditions for business, so that they do not encounter obstacles in cross-border areas. Unfortunately, we reported that this problem has not been solved so far, and political will is needed on the part of the prime ministers in order to remove the barriers, about 65 altogether. We have developed roadmaps to overcome these barriers, but it is necessary that all governments take control of these issues so that we can remove them.
The second aspect, which is important for our business, is the anti-dumping investigation function, which is carried out by the Board. In particular, we conducted such an anti-dumping investigation in order to protect the interests of herbicide producers in the territory of the Eurasian Economic Union. Several European companies used to apply dumping policies n an effort to take control of our home market. An anti-dumping investigation was carried out, but there was a veto that prevented us from exercising this right. We are pleased to note with satisfaction that today we managed to come to a consensus on the matter at hand, and the Board’s relevant decision will soon come into force.
The next problematic issue concerned sugar, which is imported into free economic zones, and then the goods that are produced in these zones enter our common market in breach of competitive regulations. Here, too, we managed to come to a consensus today, and there is an agreement that, starting from January 1, 2020, sugar will be in the list of goods that should not go into free economic zones. That is, we create equal competitive conditions.
Another veto was exercised by our Russian partners on the Board’s decision on whether we should close the domestic markets for individual producers if we encounter any problems. The Board made a decision that the Russian milk market could not be closed if there were any entities in breach of our common technical standards. After discussions, a consensus decision was reached, stating that Board’s approach was correct: we have no right to close the domestic markets unilaterally, and any decision to ban imports should target specific companies. These examples suggest that the format of the intergovernmental council is effective, because it allows us to handle sensitive issues like that and come to a consensus.
As Nikol Vovayevich mentioned, the second group of questions seek to develop the Union, In particular, the initiative of the Republic of Armenia on electronic documents was supported by the Board and by the Commission of the Eurasian Union, and is being processed by our digital office. That is, Armenia’s experience is scaled to the entire Eurasian Union.
Today we approved a reference scheme for one-stop-shop services. This is crucial for business. If the five member nations form this “single window” in accordance with this model, our countries will provide services in a more comfortable and business-friendly manner, and there is also an agreement on this issue. Including, of course, the launch of the first digital project, which solves the problem of cooperation.
First of all, the digital platform being formed will protect the interests of small and medium-sized businesses, because a huge amount of operating expenses for small businesses are removed, and through this digital platform they can sell their services and goods and at the same time find clients for themselves. So this is quite a serious breakthrough.
And concluding my speech, I would like to note that today’s decisions on the digital agenda of the intergovernmental council allow us to state that within the framework of the Eurasian Economic Union a digital ecosystem is being established for the first time that will allow our countries to exercise their digital sovereignty. We will not only be users of transnational digital platforms, we will have our own digital Eurasian platform.
Armenia TV channel - Mr Prime Minister, what are our priorities within the framework of the EAEU, since we are presiding over the Union? And a question for Tigran Sargsyan: with which countries will the EAEU sign an agreement on establishing free trade zones, and does the sanctions position of Iran affect the implementation of said agreement with this country?
Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan: Thank you for the question. As I said in my speech, one of the Eurasian Economic Union-related priorities is the formation of a common market for natural gas, oil and oil products, as well as a common electricity market – in the near future. Discussions are underway both in the framework of the Eurasian Economic Union and in the bilateral format, and I hope that this process will achieve its goal because, as I have repeatedly said, this is a very important moment for the Eurasian Economic Union as you may know that gas and energy prices have a very specific impact on the cost of goods, and this is a nuance that is very important for a common economic territory.
Another priority is the digital agenda, and I think that digitization will really bring our economies together and will create real opportunities for direct cooperation between the economic entities of our countries.
There are, of course, many more important issues, but these ones seem to be the most important from the perspective of the Eurasian Economic Union’s development and further expansion, and in terms of increasing the Union’s attractiveness for its members and third countries. Thank you.
Eurasian Economic Commission Board Chairman Tigran Sargsyan: The situation in the free trade zones is as follows: we have a valid agreement with Vietnam, which has been effective for two years because trade with Vietnam is increasing every year in double digits, and this indicates that free trade zone is a real stimulator of increased trade. Thus, this means that there is at the same time a potential for economic growth as the Vietnamese market is too large and dynamically developing, that is, it is also exciting for Armenian producers.
The second agreement is a temporary arrangement leading to the formation of a free trade zone with Iran. This agreement has already been ratified in almost all member countries. In Kazakhstan for instance, it is pending the President’s signature. After that, our Iranian partners will ratify it, and the agreement will come into force.
The following agreement is on the creation of a free trade zone with Serbia. This agreement is relevant for Armenia and Kyrgyzstan, because three countries - Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan - have free trade zone agreements already signed with Serbia, and now we need to make one for the entire Eurasian Union. We are close to completing this agreement.
The following agreements that we are currently working on are the agreement with Singapore, the formation of a free trade zone with India and Egypt. Negotiations are underway with them and with Israel as well.
I listed seven areas regarding which the Supreme Council has instructed us to work through, negotiate and prepare appropriate documents. So we will gradually submit these agreements for approval.
As for Iran, of course, the situation here is complicated by the fact that when we were negotiating, there was no new sanctions package against Iran. This, of course, will make certain adjustments for economic entities, because we see that this seriously affects the technology of trade and transactions, financial transactions with our Iranian counterparts, but at the same time it is clear that the sanctions that are applied to Iran create additional opportunities, especially for Armenia, because Armenia can use its geographical position and offer a certain set of tools that could contribute to trade turnover with Iran. Thereby, Armenia may exercise its function of a bridge between Iran and the Eurasian Union. I think it should be tapped. Thank you.
Interfax N/A - I have a question for Mr. Sargsyan. There is a lot of talk about a technical dialogue initiated between the European and Eurasian Economic Commissions, which was not there before, but the essence has not been revealed. Please reveal what this dialogue is about and what it is like?
Eurasian Economic Commission Board Chairman Tigran Sargsyan - Thank you, this is an important question, because the Supreme Council of the Eurasian Commission, and the Union, in general, is pursuing this policy.
Integration policy means that we have to establish contacts not only with the ASEAN, but with other associations as well, including the European Union, because the European Union was until recently the main partner of the Eurasian Union, but due to some political decisions that are beyond our authority there is a serious advance in the Asian direction. For the first time last year, trade with Asian countries exceeded the volume of trade with the European Union. Nevertheless, the European Union remains our main trading partner, and we are interested in creating normal interaction mechanisms, primarily aimed at creating a comfortable environment for economic entities. And from this point of view, first of all the standards, technical regulations, regulatory documents, anti-dumping investigations are concerned.
We managed to be recognized as a standalone entity, and there was such a political statement by the European Union about the beginning of a technical dialogue with us, which suggests that we have the first step in this direction. This will allow us to work with the European Commission on the aforementioned issues at a technical level, at the level of our ministers and at the level of heads of department.
This is due to the fact that the interests of those European business entities exercising activities on the territory of the Eurasian Union are often ignored for lack of a dialogue. Our European partners have stated their interest in such a dialogue, but as of yet there are no full-scale contacts due to political considerations. Nevertheless, I can say that the dialogue with the European Union will be promoted as far as the Eurasian Economic Union becomes stronger. Thank you.