Belgian Armenian Chamber of Commerce

Bridging Belgian entrepreneurs to the Eurasian market

Willing to develop your business in Armenia? Looking for new opportunities in that region? Diplomatic World met with Valéry Safarian, Chairman of the Belgian Armenian Chamber of Commerce (BACC).

How do you consider trade relations between the Republic of Armenia and the Kingdom of Belgium?

For more than 20 years Belgium has always been one of the top European trade partners of Armenia, this has mainly been boosted by the Diamond sector. Precious metals & stones represent 50% of import & export shares. Belgium is a land of Small and Medium Enterprises (SME’s) and since a few years we do see a lot of interactions between those SME’s and the Armenian market. For the last decade Belgian companies have signed joint venture agreements with Armenian partners in different fields such as construction, IT & Cyber Security, Pharmaceuticals & Chemicals and Food & Beverage (particularly in the wine industry).

In 2018 Armenia was ranked 120th as client market of Belgium with total export from Belgium of EUR 48,8 million while Armenia has exported to Belgium EUR 51,7 million the same year.

Why should a Belgian company consider prospecting and/or investing in Armenia?

Armenia is a market with a population of above 3 millions citizens and about the same size as Belgium, its economic activity index in Q1 of 2019 is about 6,5%. Armenia has recently joined the Eurasian Customs Union which makes Armenia “a gate to” one of the largest world’s markets (this market includes Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Belarus). Entering the Customs Union with goods and services to export or to produce through Armenia is definitively a good strategy. A Belgian entrepreneur would easily find a trustful partner with good skilled staff strongly connected in Russia and other Custom’s Union member’s country.

The labour cost remains very low with an average salary of 300 USD/month and the level of taxation is very attractive and “crystal clear”. Armenia does also have customs agreements with plenty of other countries such as Ukraine, Georgia, Iran,… up to Vietnam and Argentina.

Last but not least, Armenia has negotiated with the European Union a Comprehensive and Enhanced Agreement (CEPA) that has already been ratified by the majority of EU member states and that will come into force in its entirety in the upcoming months, once all the EU states will have ratified it.

Where could a Belgian businessman find help and information to explore the Armenian market?

Belgian businessmen do have several options to find help and reliable information on the Armenian Economy. First of all, they can contact us at the Belgian Armenian Chamber of Commerce (www.bacc.be), for more than 14 years we have been assisting more than 125 companies to visit and explore Armenia. Secondly, the ministry of Economy of the Republic of Armenia has appointed a permanent “Trade Representative” based at the Embassy in Brussels. Last but not least, the regional trade agencies of Belgium such as FIT (Flanders Investment & Trade) and AWEX (Agence Wallonne à l’Exportation) have always been very proactive with several officials and business delegations that visited Armenia. They are well connected with the Armenian Government and authorities. They do also collect information, statistics and data on the Armenian market that might already be useful for any market investigation.

Can you tell us about a sector in Armenia in which Belgium should focus on?

I do believe that tourism is certainly a sector with a huge potential in Armenia. Belgian travel agencies and tour operators should outline Armenia on their map. It is a very charming country with beautiful landscapes, superb mountains and great weather (sunny and not less than 25°C from April until October). Travelling to Armenia you might visit the oldest churches in the world, enjoy a lovely walk in the capital Yerevan or eat in fantastic restaurants (from delicious and typical Caucasian kitchen to Iranian and Lebanese specialties). Your evening might also start in a lounge bar with a glass of Armenian red wine listening to a tremendous live Jazz band, the social- and nightlife never ends! You will always feel welcome in Armenia.

How would you describe Armenia in 2019?

Armenia has gained its independency from the USSR through pain and difficulties but the Armenian nation has always remained fully committed to the country. A lot has changed over the last 30 years, end of 2018 Armenia organized the most transparent elections of its history with a radical political change that gives a lot of hope to its people. It also gives a strong political stability and it promises prosperity and economic development.

The Armenian diaspora (equal to 5.500.000 individuals settled in almost all continents with presence in countries like United-States, Russia, France, Lebanon, Argentina, Syria, Iran,… and of course Belgium) has always invested a lot in Armenia and is bridging with their home country making new “friends of Armenia” everywhere.

To conclude I would say that Armenia is a very nice, open-minded and proud country. It should definitively be your next destination to visit.

Belgian Armenian Chamber of Commerce

www.bacc.be