Armenia & the Russian-led customs union don't fit

Unofficial information from Yerevan says that Armenia's bid to join the Russian-led customs union, starting after the President Serzh Sagsyan's capitulation to Putin's pressures last September, has run into serious problems. Apparently Yerevan has proposed that it be allowed no less than 900 exemptions from the common external tariff, but to this Russia has said no, so there is a stand-off. Linked to this is the problem that as an WTO member state Armenia would be required to pay compensation to other WTO members upon raising its current tariff levels to those of the common external tariff, hence no doubt the 900 requested exemptions. In addition there is the technical anomaly that Armenia has no common frontier with the customs union, which makes customs procedures of the union inapplicable.

These issues have been festering for some time, but came to a head politically on 3 April with resignation of the prime minister Tigran Sarkisian. No official explanation has been given, but various Yerevan say that this is because he disagreed with Armenia acceding to the customs union and Eurasian Economic Union. These developments are hardly surprising since the Russian initiatives suffer fundamental defects: economic since the customs union consists of imposing Russia's relatively high level of external protectionism, which does not correspond to the economic interests of others, and politically since coercion is no basis for durable integration.