TBILISI, DFWatch–Georgian Economy Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili said Sunday that his country will try to have free trade with both Russia and the European Union.
An expert meeting between Georgian and Russian bureaucrats is planned for Monday in Prague to figure out how the free trade agreement Georgia signed with the EU on June 27 will affect the free trade agreement it already has with Russia.
“We will do our best to continue free trade with Russia,” Kvirikashvili said.
Georgia will be represented at the meeting by three staff members from the Ministry of Economy. This will be the first meeting between Russia and Georgia after the latter signed an association agreement with the EU which also included what is called a deep and comprehensive free trade agreement.
Behind this rather technical term lies an obligation by Georgia to bring into its own domestic legislation about 350 laws made by the EU, and these will set the rules for the free trade with EU. Russia is naturally interested in how compatible these laws imposed on Georgia by the EU will be with the free trade it has had with Georgia for decades.
“We will also inform Russia what the agreement with the EU about free trade envisages,” Kvirikashvili said.
The parties will discuss the experiences in way of trade over the past year and a half, after the Georgian Dream government succeeded in gaining access for its wine producers to the vast Russian market, which has led to a boom in export of wine. Since 2006, there had been an embargo on wine, formally justified by health standards but seen as a political reaction to the detention of four Russian diplomats as spies. Russia is also preparing to approve the sanitary standard of fruits and vegetables from Georgia, which would open further opportunities.
Giorgi Kvirikashvili said the meeting will have form of consultations to discuss pros and cons, and technical details in trade relations, which need to be improved.
Two days later, two top diplomats from the two countries will meet, also in Prague. This seventh Abashidze-Karasin meeting on July 9 will also take place in Prague and will deal with humanitarian, trade, transport and economic issues, according to Zurab Abashidze, the Georgian envoy.
Many in Tbilisi have speculated that Russia would try to prevent Georgia from signing the association agreement, but Abashidze said Sunday that the signing proceeded without any particular pressure from Russia.
“We want progress in trade and economy to continue in the same way,” Abashidze said.