Briggs markets his plan for state trade office in Armenia

Briggs markets his plan for state trade office in Armenia

January 18, 2000

(The Fresno Bee)

By Dennis Pollock

With the directory of the Fresno-based Armenian Technology Group at this side, Assemblyman Mike Briggs, R-Clovis, announced plans Monday to try to establish a California Trade Office in Armenia.

“This would be a great market for our top exports, including agriculture and computers, and it’s a region with 350 million people,” Briggs said.

Varoujan Der Simonian, executive director of the nonprofit Armenian Technology Group, pointed out it has been helping guide the people of Armenia toward agricultural self-sufficiency the past 10 years and already has offices there.

Many who gathered to watch the news conference are active with the group and have worked formally or informally to supply the region with goods or expertise. Projects have included revival of the region’s honey industry and restoration of a winery and vineyards.

The first step toward such a trade office will be a bill introduced by Briggs calling for a feasibility study from the state Department of Trade and Commerce.

An earlier proposal for such a study, from Sen. Adam Schiff, D-Burbank, made its way into the Senate version of the budget last year but died in conference. Briggs believes he has “the needed momentum” to keep such a measure alive and to enlist support from Gov. Davis. And he believes the cost of such a study, in the $200,000 range, would be minimal, considering the prospects for trade.

Der Simonian pointed out that Armenia each year imports $15 million in dairy products, and only.03% of that came from the United States. Briggs’ district includes dairy-rich Tulare County.

The Armenian office would serve a region of newly independent states that includes parts of the former Soviet Union: Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Georgia, Armenia, Moldova, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kirgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan.

Briggs cited the selection of Armenia because of a highly literate population that includes many who speak English and because it is the most westernized country in the Caucasus region.

He pointed out offices of the United Nations and World Bank already operate there. Der Simonian said the Armenian Technology Group’s office there has five staff members with masters in business administration from the American University of Armenia, which is affiliated with the University of California.

The state already staffs and maintains trade offices in Japan, Mexico, Germany, Taiwan, South Korea, and five other regions.

An additional five offices will open this year in Singapore, China, Argentina, India, and the Philippines.

California has the largest population of Armenians outside the republic of Armenia.

A trade office also is being touted as a way of helping keep stability in the region.

“Anytime trade can be promoted, it will help promote peace,” said Bryan Bedrosian, a Fowler raisin-grape grower who has twice visited the region and is a member of the group’s board of directors.

For more information about how you can help Armenia’s farmers, contact the ATG office at (559) 224-1000 or by e-mail ( Tax-deductible donations can be sent to ATG; 1300 E. Shaw, Suite 149; P.O.Box 5969; Fresno, CA 93755-5969.
You may also donate to ATG online.