Friday

26th Apr 2019

EU rewards Georgia with 'deep' free trade talks

  • Georgia is proud of having won the trade battle with Russia (Photo: Thomas Depenbusch)

After having lifted its veto against Russia joining the World Trade Organisation (WTO) following a Swiss-brokered deal, Georgia will start "deep" free trade negotiations with the EU in December.

While EU countries are being downgraded one after the other, the small country in the Caucasus has a different story to tell: Credit rating agency Standard & Poor's on Wednesday upgraded Georgia's rating from BB- to B+, citing "strong growth prospects" at around six percent of the gross domestic product and frugal public expenditure.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

"It's a recognition that real free market policies work - keep bureaucracy low, don't spend too much, create an investment-friendly environment. It was not capitalism that failed in the crisis, but state intervention to save greedy banks," Georgia's Europe minister Giorgi Baramidze told this website.

The so-called "deep free trade agreement", which could be wrapped up in mid-2013, will enhance Georgia's attractiveness even further, the minister said.

He shrugged off questions about the potential negative impact for local producers. "They are competing in the free market anyway, we are not subsidising or protecting our local industry. On the contrary, this deep free trade agreement will open up new markets to them, so it will be something positive," he said.

Pre-conditions for starting the talks had been met for over a year, but the EU has been reluctant to launch them while Georgia opposed Russia's membership of the WTO. "Formally, there was no connection between the two," Baramidze says. Once Tbilisi said yes to Moscow joining the international trading body, the EU indicated it would open the talks in December, however.

A compromise deal negotiated by Switzerland was key to unblocking the deadlock.

Russia, who fought a brief war with Georgia in 2008, still has troops on the ground and has recognised the independence of two Georgian provinces - Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Georgia, a WTO member, had for a year been refusing to let Russia join the trade body so long as they had no customs agreement to deal with the disputed northern border.

"They thought once the EU and the US had agreed to Russia's WTO membership, it would be enough. Russia never thought it would have to negotiate with Georgia on this," the minister said.

The Swiss-brokered deal obliges Russia to let a Swiss-hired contractor monitor all customs operations on the Russian side when exporting or importing from Georgia.

As no representatives from Abkhazia and South Ossetia were even invited at the talks, the Georgian minister says that Moscow is practically ignoring the very "independence" it had recognised for the two regions.

"This is an example to show that Russia can do a lot of things when it has a direct interest like joining the WTO," Baramidze said.

Georgia to EU: Don't neglect eastern neighbourhood

The EU should move faster on free trade agreements and negotiations for visa-free travel with Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova, which are 'inexpensive' policies that can be pursued in times of austerity as funding priorities shift to the southern neighbourhood, a Georgian minister has said.

EU-Georgia trade talks proving 'difficult', minister says

Preliminary talks on a free trade regime are the "most difficult" part of a broad Association Agreement currently being negotiated between Georgia and the EU, possibly due to objections Tbilisi has raised against Russia joining the World Trade Organisation, Georgia's chief negotiator has said in an interview.

EU and Georgia edge closer to association deal

EU trade officials signed off on a free trade agreement with Georgia on Monday, as the South Caucasus country edges towards finalising an Association agreement with the bloc.

Trump's Israel plan to 'test' EU resolve

EU countries ought to draw "red lines" for US president Donald Trump on the Arab-Israeli conflict, Herman Van Rompuy, the former head of the EU Council, has said.

News in Brief

  1. EU: Russian citizenship plan 'attacks' Ukraine sovereignty
  2. Deutsche Bank hands over Trump loan documents
  3. UN: Europe is badly prepared for new refugee crisis
  4. Macron to set out 'Yellow vest' counter measures
  5. Italy requests EU action plan for new Libya migrant wave
  6. Far-right party leaders meet in Prague
  7. Priest shames politicians at reporter's funeral in Belfast
  8. Putin offers Russian citizenship to Ukraine regions

Opinion

Closer EU-Caribbean ties mean greater prosperity for all

The foreign affairs minister of Haiti calls for the replacement EU-Africa, Caribbean, Pacific 'Cotonou' agreement of 2000 to be updated to take account climate change, infrastructure and tourism to help the country transition away from aid-dependence.

EU migrants sneaking into US from Mexico

Almost 1,000 Romanian nationals were caught trying to sneak into the United States in 2017, of which around half attempted to cross via Mexico. Nationals from countries like Hungary and the UK were also intercepted.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  2. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  3. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  4. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  9. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  10. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan

Latest News

  1. Greens commit to air quality 'super commissioner'
  2. Far-right Facebook networks removed before Spain election
  3. EU and Japan in delicate trade talks
  4. Closer EU-Caribbean ties mean greater prosperity for all
  5. Details of EU Brexit talks with Blair and Soros kept secret
  6. Weber vows to block Nord Stream 2 amid 'sue' threat
  7. 'Next Juncker' must fix EU's corporate power problem
  8. EU want Facebook pan-EU advert fix for May elections

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us