California Opens Trade Office in Former Soviet Republic

Michael J. Arvizu
El Vaquero Staff Writer

California has become the first state to establish a regional trade office in a former republic of the USSR. Senate Bill 1657, authored by Sen. Jack Scott, D-Glendale and signed by Gov. Gray Davis on Sept. 25, authorize opening a regional trade office in the Armenian capital of Yerevan.

“I’m excited about it,” said Scott at a Sept. 28 luncheon at the Brandview Collection in Glendale where Ambassador to the Republic of Armenia John Ordway was also in attendance.

“I think it has a lot of possibilities,” the senator said. “It’s a step in the right direction. It would improve cultural student relationships and economic relationships and trade. It’s going to be a boost.”

Though the bill had failed to pass through the state legislature three times previously, Scott believes that the bill’s success now is due largely by the support the measure garnered from the Armenian community. The basis of the bill, Scott said, was the profound concern of those Armenians living in California for the welfare of the homeland.

“The trade office will be an enormous benefit to Armenia and to our region,” said Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Glendale. “The two greatest resources our two countries have are our people – we can provide a market that will help Armenia grow and thrive.”

“I think it is the best thing that could happen, especially to a city like Los Angeles,” said Jack Berberian, president of Junior Achievement of Armenia and host of the luncheon.

The trade bill hits close to home for Berberian. Berberian, along with his brother Jon, own Jon’s market.
“This really opens up opportunities for the Armenian producers to be able to expose their products to a marketplace like Los Angeles,” said Berberian.

One of the goals of the bill is to allow Armenia to shift from being a former economy of the Soviet Union into a market economy. Scott said that already in Armenia there exists American companies that are building facilities such as hotels and technology centers.

“It will provide opportunities for undergraduates that are entering the business field … those that are just interested in trying to strengthen this struggling democracy in a very hostile part of the word,” said Schiff.

California has trade offices in Germany, the United Kingdom, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Mexico, South Africa, Taiwan and Japan.