Speech of Heydar Aliyev, the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan at the opening ceremony of the American Chamber of Commerce in Azerbaijan - "Hyatt Regency Nakhchivan" Hotel, December 13, 1996

Ladies and Gentlemen!

Dear guests!

I cordially greet you all and say you "Welcome to Azerbaijan." The organized start of work of American Chamber of Commerce is a distinguished event in the history of US- Azerbaijan relationships.

After gaining of independence, the Republic of Azerbaijan tries to establish economic cooperation with all countries of the world and the United State of America occupies a special place amongst them. US-Azerbaijan cooperation was successfully developing in the course of the last years. I highly appreciate it and we will do our best for the further development of these relationships. This cooperation perfectly fits the strategic policy of the independent Republic of Azerbaijan in the economic sphere.

After gaining independence Azerbaijan has chosen the way of the democratic, legal and civilized state building, carrying out of reforms in the economy of the republic and principles of relating its economy to the world economy. We think that for the development of social-economic situation of the Republic we must cooperate closely with foreign countries and all companies of the world and have joint business in the economic sphere between Azerbaijan and other countries, companies. These are main works carried out in the sphere of development of Azerbaijani economy on the basis of market economy and attraction of foreign investment to our Republic on the permanent basis.

As you know, Azerbaijan has abundant natural resources. Our country has a big industrial, agricultural potential. From the viewpoint of its geographical location, our Republic has big possibilities for the economic cooperation with World Community. The world experience has proved repeatedly that no country, even the biggest one is able to develop its economy within its boundaries up to the required level. Integration of world economy, the mutual cooperation in the economic field of the countries each with other is beneficial for every country and in general it is the only way of development of the world economy.

After gaining state independence we took for the main principle this experience and made efforts for constant attraction of foreign investment to Azerbaijan and joining of the economy of our republic to the world economy, we will undertake these efforts in the future as well. The results achieved in the field of joint business between Azerbaijan and the US companies within the last years are vivid example of that.

It is well known that one of the factors and the main one of attraction of the US and other companies to Azerbaijan is oil and gas fields of our country. The existence of abundant oil and gas fields at the territory of the Republic of Azerbaijan and Azerbaijani sector of the Caspian Sea is well known all over the world. Azerbaijan is an ancient and great oil country. The achievements of our republic in this field are known world-wide. Now we are living a new stage, a new period of the oil and gas industry of Azerbaijan. This stage is related to joint exploration of these oil and gas fields of Azerbaijan with great oil companies of the world.

As you know we signed the first large contract two years ago - in September, 1994. This contract is known in the world history as the "Contract of Century." This contract was signed between State Oil Company of Azerbaijan Republic and the Consortium of foreign oil companies. The US companies take more numerous in this Consortium. It is with a great sense of pleasure that I want to say that the results of these contracts in the course of the passed two years were positive and the programs envisaged in contract are being implemented consecutively. If some people had doubts and others wanted to see the positive results of this contract when we were going to sign it, now these results turned into reality. And those, who had doubts, should give them up.

As you know, two other large oil contracts were signed afterwards. The US companies participated at the contract signed a year ago. Tomorrow a new oil contract is to be signed and the main parties of the contract are still the US oil companies.

These contracts and their practical implementation provided coming of both the US and many other companies to Azerbaijan. I am pleased to say that offices of not only the US oil companies, but those dealing with other spheres are opened in Azerbaijan. All this is perfect results of the US-Azerbaijan economic cooperation and the big potential achieved by us.

The importance of this potential is that all these works will give more perfect results in the future. Therefore, I think that opening of the US Chamber of Commerce in Azerbaijan and inauguration of its office is very remarkable today and will serve for the new stage in the future. We did our best up to present to encourage not only the US companies but every individual, representing the United States who comes to Azerbaijan and want to make business here. However, now, after establishment of the US Chamber of Commerce and starting of its organized activity, we will do our work with more success.

I know that the US Chamber of Commerce is established in Azerbaijan to regulate, support, guide and make prognostication for all the US companies and businessmen in Azerbaijan. I welcome this initiative and highly appreciate it. I think that the Chamber of Commerce will work here freely and successfully.

You may be confident that the support on the level of Azerbaijani state, government and all state bodies will be rendered to the Chamber of Commerce of the United States in order to ensure its successful activity. This is of the same importance both for you and for us. We are very interested in it. Because, as I have mentioned earlier, we want more US companies to come to Azerbaijan.

We are carrying out economic reforms and privatization process on the basis of principles of market economy, of course, we are going on this way and we will go in the future. Both you and all Azerbaijani society see the positive results of the implemented economic reforms and privatization process in the last period. The offices of foreign companies, their joint-ventures, private enterprises, large and beautiful shops has changed the image of Azerbaijan, especially that of Baku. All this pleases us.

Today I want to state that we are consecutively adhering the way of economic reforms and we will adhere this way in the future too. We are promptly implementing the privatization process and take serious measures in this sphere. For example, I have liquidated the State Agency of Grain Products two days ago and submitted all enterprises and bodies of this Agency to the State Property Committee for privatization.

This is a measure taken not for privatization of separate enterprises, but an entire state structure. Perhaps, this is an ordinary case for our guests that came from the United States of America. However, it is not at all an ordinary case for us. Because, you must know that adoption of a decision for liquidation and privatization of large state bodies that have been under aegis of the government for a long time requires courage and we implement it with courage. We need foreign investments and cooperation with the US companies for implementation of these measures.

The US companies should try to participate at the privatization process underway in Azerbaijan and take their own place in the implementation of market economy in the economic life of our country. I invite you to this.

I declare for you and all our partners from the United States of America that the state ad president of the Republic of Azerbaijan will steadfastly develop the economy of our country on the basis of market economy, implementation of economic reforms and privatization. Therefore, I always say to foreign companies, including American companies to not be late. The sooner you come to Azerbaijan the better place you will have here.

You must know that a favorable social and political situation is established in Azerbaijan for establishing a successful business here. We have adopted some very favorable laws for attraction of foreign investments to Azerbaijan. We are going to adopt such laws in the future too. If there is an annoying factor in any sphere for doing this work we will eliminate it. If any part of any law inhibit the successful implementation of our work, we will amend these laws and adopt new ones. You can be sure in it.

In order to do all this work we are closely cooperating with International Monetary Fund, World Bank and European Union. I would like to say that I am very pleased with this cooperation and I think that this cooperation is a perfect mean for implementation of economic reforms in Azerbaijan and strengthening of the economy of our country.

I would like to say once again that I am very pleased with our today`s meeting. I wish successes to all of you and all companies and businessmen of the United States of America. I hope that on the basis of results achieved up to now, the US-Azerbaijan economic cooperation will develop more quickly.

In previous meetings with the President of the United States of America, Mr. Bill Clinton, as well as meetings and negotiation held with vice-president Albert Gore held a few days ago in Lisbon, we discussed development of the US-Azerbaijan relationships in all spheres and we were of the same opinion. I openly stated the position of Azerbaijan in this sphere.

I highly appreciate the friendship and cooperation established with state bodies of the United State of America, as well as between the US and Azerbaijani Presidents, and I assure you that Azerbaijan will always remain faithful to these relationships of friendship and cooperation.

I cordially congratulate you once again on the occasion of opening ceremony of American Chamber of Commerce in Azerbaijan. I wish you all successes, happiness and health.
Thank you.