Statements and messages of the President of RA
Remarks by the President Serzh Sargsyan at the Armenia-UAE Investment Forum
Distinguished Mr. Minister,
Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am extremely delighted, and it is also of symbolic significance that only four months after my previous official visit I am hosted once again at this friendly land. I salute you cordially in this wonderful hall: such an exceptionally representative event comes to attest to the mutual desire and commitment of the highest authorities of our countries to elevate to a qualitatively new level the economic relations between Armenia and UAE. Only months ago, this was merely an idea, whereas today it has become a realiy, of which we expect a lot. I would like to express my particular gratitude to the authorities of the United Arab Emirates and especially to the Crown Prince of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, His Highness Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan for bringing this idea to life.
The Armenian-Arab friendship withstood the test of time and, in our days it has become a solid foundation for the relations between Armenia and amny Arab states.
It was on this foundation, during the reign of the blessed memory Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the founder of the United Emirates, that the official cooperation between the Armenia and the United Arab Emirates took root. And today it is our wish and also our duty to strengthen and deepen the precious legacy we received.
Throughout its history Armenia, was at the crossroads of the East and the West, and because of that the Armenian people were recognizable in both these worlds. At the same time the East and the West had mingled on our soil which is reflected in the mindset and lifestyle of our nation. This means that if you come to Armenia, you will not only discover the environment conducive for doing business, but will also find familiar features the most characteristic of which, perhaps, is traditional Armenian hospitality and warmth, so typical for our fraternal Arab people as well.
Naturally, some of you have your own perception of Armenia, though many yet have to discover it, especially as a country with economic potential. But before you do, let me highlight some aspects of doing business in Armenia, some important prerequisites from the perspective of a mutually beneficial partnership.
It is incontestable that perhaps the most crucial factor for the mutually beneficial partnership is trust. In this rapidly changing competitive world, long-term partnerships may be forged and investments may be made only if there exists the atmosphere of trust. This is something we do share in earnest. Our peoples know each other historically, and by virtue of history having lived side by side with the Arab people and being exposed to the Arab civilization, we appreciate the value of trust very well.
Despite the hard time that befell upon us throughout our history, we never gave in, spread all over the world and became successful businessmen. We are not intimidated by constraints imposed upon us, and we do our best to turn them into competitive advantages. Having no fossil fuel, we develop human resources; subjected to a double blockade, we build integration bridges; being a landlocked country, we open up to the world through our Armenian communities spread all over the world, we communicate setting up alternative ways and taking advantage of the state of the art technology.
This is best testified to by the fact that Armenia today has turned into a country offering sophisticated turnkey technological solutions and services, taking up its specific niche on the mainstream global ICT map. You have the opportunity to see fpr yourself through your own experience that Armenia has created a conducive framework for doing business and a free investment environment protected by law.
This is attested to by the World Bank 2017 Doing Business Report in which Armenia ranks the 38th among 190 countries; moreover, it ranks the 9th with regard to simplicity of starting a business. As for the economic freedom indicator, this year marked unprecedented progress: our country currently is the 33rd, which means we have improved our standing over last year by 21 notches.
Our government has created investment packages which I keep in the focus of my immediate attention. We shall welcome and support investors from the United Arab Emirates in various sectors of the Armenia economy.
There are great opportunities for cooperation in agriculture and food processing. Organic and greenhouse farming is growing in Armenia day by day, the produce of which, I believe, is in great demand in your country as well. Armenia has earned itself a reputaion in canning and drying fruits and vegetables, producing juices, and drinking water from our springs has long been the country’s showpiece. One of the world’s tastiest fruits - sun-drenched apricot, is indigenous to Armenia, in academic taxonomy it is called Prunus Armeniaca.
Armenia’s free economic zones may serve as an effective platform for cooperation in these sectors. Alliance, geared towards high-tech and innovative production, as well as Meridian for jewelry, precious stones and watchmaking; operation within these zones enjoys an almost total examption of taxes and duties. Another one is in the pipeline, a free economic zone with a broader scope, to become an effective platform for entry to the markets of the EAEU, EU and the Middle East countries. Armenia offers to the UAE businessmen a continually increasing market as Eurasian integration has expanded Armenia’s economic boundaries to nearly 1/7th of the world’s mainland.
Along with that recent negotiations between Armenia and the EU on the Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership have been completed. It creates a new level of our economic relations with the European Union, new opportunities for trade and investments. Armenia had already been benefitting from the GSP+ regime with the EU, which allows to export to Europe more than 6,400 products made in Armenia on preferential terms.
I am certain that working together we will register substanial accomplishments. This is best witnessed by the unprecedented growth of trade turnover between our countries: almost 2.5 times, as of the end of last year. Whereas this year there has been an exponential increase of more than 8 times, and we intent to keep up the pace.
I have to mention tourism here - the best medium for friendship and people to people contacts, intercultural dialogue and getting acquainted with each other. I will acknowlwdge with pleasure that the number of tourists visiting Armenia from the United Arab Emirates is growing progressively: it increased by 44% just in 2016. I am certain that this is far from being the limit, especially considering that today, as we speak, a visa free entry regime to Armenia takes effect for the UAE citizens. Services available for tourists improve in Armenia consistently. The service sector in Armenia is the fastest growing sector in general, and our country stands out advantageously in the region in this respect.
Incidentally, I would like to reflect on one more circummstance: within recent years Armenia has received 20,000 peope of the Armenian descent, who are equally bearers of the Armenian as well as Arab identity and culture. The presence in Armenia of such a solid cohort of bilingual individulas with remarkable entrepreneurial traditions, may directly and significantly facilitate the activities of the UAE investors in our country.
I hereby invite every one of you to discover Armenia, with its remarkable mountaineous landscape, delicious cuisine, traditional Armenian hospitality, and, certainly, educated, hardworking and knowledgeable workforce, fit for contributing to any long-term project.
Thank you for your attention, and I once again express my gratitude to the leadership of the Emirates for organizating this splendid event.