Open Markets Not the Answer

Gary L. Toronto, 6 July 2014

Keghart.com has published several letters by reader "KYB" who commented on a recent editorial about Armenian individuals who are secretly in touch with Turkish government representatives and business groups. Below is Gary L.'s reply to "KYB". Because of the length of the letter and its highly-informative content, we have posted it as a stand-alone article.–Editor

It is apparent that it is waste of time to engage  KYB in a meaningful discussion on imperative issues about the Armenian nation's future, security, and its survival. KYB has a one-track mind. He examines and discusses everything from the prism of business and open market, nothing else. As if the opening of the Turkish border will solve the various ills of the homeland and make it a model country. Furthermore, his logic is tainted with his personal agenda.

Gary L. Toronto, 6 July 2014

Keghart.com has published several letters by reader "KYB" who commented on a recent editorial about Armenian individuals who are secretly in touch with Turkish government representatives and business groups. Below is Gary L.'s reply to "KYB". Because of the length of the letter and its highly-informative content, we have posted it as a stand-alone article.–Editor

It is apparent that it is waste of time to engage  KYB in a meaningful discussion on imperative issues about the Armenian nation's future, security, and its survival. KYB has a one-track mind. He examines and discusses everything from the prism of business and open market, nothing else. As if the opening of the Turkish border will solve the various ills of the homeland and make it a model country. Furthermore, his logic is tainted with his personal agenda.

The longevity and survival of any nation-state is based on many vital elements such as an independent judiciary, a strong army, a transparent democratic process, highly-developed educational system, freedom of expression, distinctive language and culture, social justice, and the upholding of civil and civic rights of the citizen.

The core existence of a nation is based on its integrity, its commitment to preserving its past, and giving due consideration to the sacrifices of its forbears. No self-respecting nation will forego and forget the injustices that it has suffered and the collective interest of its people for the sake of narrow-minded individuals who have their own agenda. Throughout history, many nations have been subjected of a far more vicious and longer lasting economic sanctions and blockade than Armenia. But none of them has given up and sacrificed its dignity, self-respect, and pride for 30 pieces of silver or “open market” economy. At the end, these nations came out of these inhuman and unethical practices of their antagonists much stronger. Meanwhile, these nations have also gained the respect of their enemies for their principled steadfastness and refusal to capitulate under pressure, intimidation, and blackmail. These nations preferred the short term-pain over loss of its independence.

To portray “open market” economy with Turkey as the magic wand of the Armenian people's well-being is deceiving. Those who prescribe this dogma are living in la la land. If history is our guide, Turkey will always use its economic leverage, its political negotiating experience and skills, in addition to its alliances around the world, to subjugate the Armenian nation not by the sword but by the “open market” economy.

KYB’s "open market" economy is full of falsehood and contradiction. Even a Grade 6 student can drive a truck through it. On the one hand KYB is prophesizing that “open markets" and "open borders” with Turkey will provide an opportunity for “ARMENIAN-owned businesses” to “flourish.” On the other hand he admits that “weaker economies can't benefit when integrating/working with much larger economies.” How can he reconcile these two fundamentally contradictory ideas? Can KYB explain to readers how the Armenian’s “weaker” economy will “benefit” vis-à-vis the “much larger" economy of Turkey?  Especially when the various Turkish industries are heavily subsidized by the Turkish government.

Furthermore, he is accusing all those who do not agree with his theories as supporters of “the oligarchs in Armenia.” In my humble opinion the “oligarchs in Armenia” are the ones pushing for  “open markets" and “open borders” with Turkey because they are the only ones who have the leverages to benefit from this policy. We are interested to find out how small Armenian businesses, farmers, traders …etc. will benefit.   

When it comes to Turkey and Armenia bilateral relations and the states quo, Armenia is the only side which is launching initiative after initiative to change the “status quo.” From soccer diplomacy to the Protocols, to organizing touristic trips for Armenians to Turkey, to raising funds to renovate Armenian churches, to Armenian artists performing in Turkey, the Armenian side is the one which has sought to change the status quo. The Turkish side reciprocated the Armenian initiative by making more demands from Armenians and becoming more intransigent.  

These are all facts and not “dramatization”, as KYB claims. Can KYB inform us what success he and his friends have achieved from their dealings with Turkish government agents? Were they able to convince Turkey to open the border with Armenia? Were they able to entangle the opening of the border from the Nagorno-Karabagh conflict? Were they able to return the confiscated Armenian Patriarchate properties? Today an Istanbul court rejected a lawsuit filed by the Armenian Patriarchate of Constantinople for the return of the historical Armenian Sanasarian property. Were they able to bring the real murderers of Hrant Dink to justice? Were they able to reform the Turkish educational system? Were they able to eliminate Article 301 from the Turkish constitution? Were they able to reverse the June 10, 1915 directive “On the Forms of Governing the Real Property and Land of the Armenians Relocated to Other Places” or the September 13, 1915 Young Turk government temporary law “On the Abandoned Properties", so that Armenians can reclaim the business and properties they lost? 

It is quite amusing for KYB to label those who don’t  subscribe to his ideology as agents of  'divide and conquer'. Maybe KYB should look at the mirror before he starts lavishly spreading such accusations against his opponents.

I would like to suggest to KYB and his friends to read Turkish Americans Prepare ‘Master Plan’ for 2015 before their next meeting with their Turkish business colleagues and the representatives of the Turkish government. Maybe they will experience spiritual reawakening and try to correct some of the crimes of the past 99 years.

6 comments
  1. Principled Steadfast Nations

    It would have shed more light to a reader had Gary L been more specific of model nations he has in mind for us to emulate when he notes that "Throughout history, many nations have been subjected of a far more vicious and longer lasting economic sanctions and blockade than Armenia. But none of them has given up and sacrificed its dignity, self-respect, and pride for 30 pieces of silver or “open market” economy. At the end, these nations came out of these inhuman and unethical practices of their antagonists much stronger. Meanwhile, these nations have also gained the respect of their enemies for their principled steadfastness and refusal to capitulate under pressure, intimidation, and blackmail. These nations preferred the short term-pain over loss of its independence."

    Of modern time nations that have exhibited "principled steadfastness" as they see it,  Iran, North Korea, Cuba come to my mind. Even they do not want to live in a perpetual splendid isolation and I am not being sarcastic.

    I am no economist, but I believe it's the natural order of things that sooner or later Armenia will come to terms with its neighbor, Turkey, and that will entail opening up trade along their shared borders. I believe that is what KYB has made clear to the readers: that he is for open and not secret talks with Turks–rather than refusing to talk.
     

    1. Reply to Garabed

      To Garabed,
      Nobody is disputing that trade between nations is good. Here are some of the dangers of Armenia/Turkey trade:
      1. Turkey is a much bigger country (80 million versus 2 million pop.) and has a much bigger economy. It already trades with many countries. The little it would sell to tiny Armenia can be sold at super reduced prices because Turkey has long ago covered its costs.
      2. Turkish industry is one of the most subsidized economies around. The government gives all kinds of breaks to industry to fuel exports. How can Armenian goods compete with those prices?
      3. As our long-time nemesis which doesn't hide its ambitions for a contiguous Turkic nation (Armenia is an obstacle), it has every reason to undermine Armenia by any means, including the economy.
      I'm sure others can cite other reasons for Turkey to insinuate into Armenia's economy so as to indirectly control it.
      Mesrob

      P.S. Turkey can also establish factories in Armenia and thus become an important part of the employment scene. It would thus win allies among the employed.
       

      1. Still at a loss

        Mesrob,
        In spite and because of all the perceived perils of trade between Turkey and Armenia there is one indisputable fact: either there is trade between Armenia and Turkey or there is not. We all understand that trade is a legal term for regulated exchange of goods and services between countries and it does not mean laissez faire–open border allowing free flow of the same.

        You claim that "nobody is disputing that trade between nations is good" yet apparently not between Armenia and Turkey you conclude.

        Am I wrong in my summary and conclusion of your thoughts?

        Garabed

        1. One More Time
          Garabed,
          I will try to explain one more time: while trade is good, even between Armenia and Turkey, this is not the time for open trade. It would be premature to do so now. Armenia has little to export other than brandy and mining. Other industries are in their infancy. They need to grow and become stronger, and other industries should be created and strengthened before we have open trade with Turkey. Our industries should be strengthened so that they may compete with Turkish products and prices. One such industry is information technology. Software is an area where we can be competitive. Once we have competitive (attractive products and services and attractive prices) then we can enter the "fray". If we often our doors now, we would be flooded by cheap Turkish products. They might even buy our budding industries.
          I know that countries have various barriers to control trade/imports. In this instance, we have no leg to stand on. How can we start trading with Turkey when we have little to trade and what we have is not competitive. Remember…last year when Armenia was contemplating getting into the EU we were told that Armenia doesn't have much to sell Europe because it has no competitive industry. Here in Canada, you see very few Armenia products (jam comes to mind.) Compared to other Middle Eastern jams, it's more expensive…and a sign that the product doesn't fit this market, it's far too sweet. Because jam exporting is in its infancy in Armenia, there's no knowledge of the needs for different markets. Had the Armenia jam makers been aware of market taste differences, they would have checked their prodigious use of sugar. For example, the cognac exported from France isn't always identical. Under the same brand name, French cognac manufacturers make adjustments to the taste and color to appeal to different markets.
          Bottom line: Let's develop products which can be competitive before opening the doors wide open, especially to Turkey which has designs on us.

  2. Hitting some nails on the “BASH”

    Thank you, Gary, for taking the time to formulate and express facts and sentiments that highly resonate with this Keghart reader. 

  3. Garabed to Mesrob

    First and foremost thank you for responding and not coloring your response with unwarranted patriotism. Any Armenian who advocates talking with Turkey and opening up trade with Turkey is no less knowledgeable of our tragic recent history and about the precarious state of Armenia.

    See, if I were a father in Armenia, especially living in rural Armenia and am of modest means, not to say poor, I will deal with anybody to find legal avenues that would make feeding my family more affordable. If Armenia lacks product X and is not getting that product from Turkey, assuming at more affordable price, then someone is procuring the same from somewhere else and selling it at a higher price because of lack of competing markets. It would not surprise me that such things are happening in Armenia and enriching a very small segment of the society further because they have the means to deal with far away markets than those of modest means who can drive to Turkey and import goods presumably cheaply. Let us face it only few in Armenia have the means to import or export milk or its related products to far away countries.

    Let us be mindful also that Armenia will become more competitive as a result of competition and in completion and not in preparation of an eventual competition.

    What I am suggesting is that to know the benefits and the perils of trade with Turkey we got to have bilateral talks and even experience the real outcome of trade with Turkey. I said bilateral and not imposed talks. Charters for trade relations are not like biblical commands. They can be altered or abolished if they do not serve the good of the country.  We should react to the outcome of such talks and not predispose ourselves  against having such talks for reasons that may look on paper but may be meaningless to those of us who are poor citizens of Armenia.

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