Ambassador Richard Mills’ Remarks at U.S. Business Briefing

Minister Minasyan, distinguished representatives of international financial institutions and U.S. corporations, and our Armenian guests. It is a pleasure for me to join you today.  As you may know, the first priority of my ambassadorship in Armenia is to deepen business and trade relations between our two countries. So it is encouraging for me to see all of you here today at the opening of the U.S. Business Briefing day in Yerevan at the Marriott, the same venue where I made my first policy speech before the AMCHAM.  I hope today’s event lays the foundations for many future business successes that will benefit both our countries.

We at the Embassy want to help set the stage for that success by connecting Armenian businesses and investment opportunities with American corporations with a track record of working in the region. Then we can step back and let you do what you all know best, build your businesses in mutually beneficial fashion, while we stand ready in the background to provide assistance when needed.

We are grateful for our partnership with the Ministry of Economy, the American Chambers of Commerce in Russia and Armenia, Converse Bank, International Financial Institutions and many others in making this event happen.  Thanks to you, our partners, I am sure today’s business forum will be a success.

I would like to welcome U.S. company representatives, and to thank them for their interest in the Armenian market. We are well aware of your success in the greater region and we are glad that you are here, eager to enter and expand in the Armenian market. We hope that you find this forum a fruitful avenue to connect with local businesses and foster mutually-beneficial partnerships.

Next to my focus of deepening U.S.-Armenia business relations, is my focus on fighting corruption. Fighting corruption is also a key part of improving the business environment in Armenia. As I reiterated on several occasions, let us — civil society, private sector, governments, and media — all work together to fight corruption and create a level playing field in Armenia. And let me repeat it: When competition among businesses is not fair and not based on objective commercial criteria, when there are powerful interests that have disproportionate economic and political influence, it limits economic growth. The whole economy — indeed the whole country — suffers.

But corruption affects more than just the economy. Corruption undermines democracy and rule of law. It breeds instability and mistrust in institutions, and it can threaten national security.

We are fortunate to have experienced investors and businesses participating today. However, I would be remiss if I did not remark on your responsibilities under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and its anti-bribery provisions. In negotiating business relationships, I urge you to perform the necessary due diligence and strictly adhere to the law.

The U.S. Embassy stands ready to assist you as you move forward.

Also as you explore investments in Armenia, I would like to particularly put an emphasis on corporate social responsibility and the greater social impact you can make in this country. Several companies within the AmCham are paving the way and eager to share their CSR experiences with you. So as you consider doing business in Armenia, we urge you to look at how you might magnify your corporate image through CSR, at the same time improving the quality of life in Armenia.

Today’s event is conducted as a follow up to the first meeting of the U.S.-Armenia Council on Trade and Investment held here in Yerevan in November 2015 and it follows our March 23 seminar on our Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) Program. And we have several more planned during my ambassadorship here in Armenia. As you know, the council was established after the two countries signed the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) in May 2015.

I look forward to talking with you during the networking reception later today, to hear about the outcomes of today’s sessions and gather your insights about how we can improve our efforts in this vitally important area.

Thank you.