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Sanctions relief removes obstacle to US-Armenia aluminum trade
2019-01-17 10:26:50

The US Senate on Wednesday narrowly rejected a Democratic-led effort to block President Donald Trump from lifting sanctions against three Russian businesses.

Senators voted 57-42 to end debate on the resolution, falling short of the 60 votes needed. If all Democrats supported the measure, they needed to win over 13 Republican senators. 

The US Senate’s rejection today of a bid to block the easing of sanctions on Russian aluminum company Rusal PLC will have the practical effect of reducing pressure on an Armenian aluminum mill, said the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA). The Armenal mill employs 700 in Yerevan, indirectly supports thousands of area families, and exports products to US and other international markets.

"While we did not take a position on the broader policy debate over the lifting of specific sanctions, we do welcome the net effect of today's vote, which is to ease pressure on a successful, export-driven Armenian enterprise that employs over 700, supports many times that number of Armenian families, and exports products to US markets," said ANCA Executive Director Aram Suren Hamparian.

"The ANCA remains committed to working constructively with legislators from both parties to address undue, improper, or unintended consequences of US regional sanctions on Armenia and the US-Armenia trade relationship."

Armenal, based in the Arabkir district of Armenia’s capital, Yerevan, supplies aluminum foil for packaged food, beverage, cigarette, and other export markets primarily in the US and Europe.  US firms purchasing products from Armenal include Colorado-based Trinidad Benham Corp and Illinois-based Handi-Foil of America and Durable Packaging International.

According to Reuters reports in September of 2018, the Armenal plant, which produced over 33 tons of foil products in 2017, was set to cut output in 2018 following initial US sanctions on Russian businessman Oleg Deripaska and several of the companies he controls.  After extensive negotiations led by US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, three of these companies, including Rusal, which is affiliated with Armenal, now comply with US sanctions laws, effectively lifting restrictions on exports. Supporters of the sanctions in the Senate questioned whether Deripaska’s divestment eliminated his actual control of these companies.