Latvian-Georgian Business Forum

Mikheil Janelidze Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia
Latvia, 31 March 2016

Ladies and gentlemen, honorable guests, it is a great pleasure to be here today and to have opportunity to talk about the economic ties and business ties between two friendly nations, between two friendly countries.

My colleague and dear friend had described very well the opportunities which exist between two countries and the potential we have in bilateral economic relations. First of all, I have to mention that Georgia is able to provide these opportunities today, because we have such a strong support from our friends like Latvia.

We have already progressed during these 25 years, since regaining independence in 1991. This period has been quite challenging for Georgia, but we are on a right path, we are on a path of European and Euro-Atlantic integration, which have also been a goal, an idea and a dream of Latvian people which has been achieved through very hard work. Now Georgia is undergoing the same process and we are undergoing this process with the help of our friends, again with Latvian government, with the support of Latvian people and it’s not only technical assistance or experience sharing, but it’s a moral support and it’s a political support which is very important to be firm, to stay committed and to continue this progressive development.

We in Georgia believe that, we belong to Europe not only in terms of geography, but we believe that we belong to European values, to European interests and we are the country providing and upholding the interests of Europe in Caucasus region and providing bridge for European companies, for our friends and allies in our region. Our friendship and the emotional ties, which exist between our nations, help us in finding new ways of development and co-operation and with more integration of Georgia into the European structures and into the EU internal market we will find more bases and opportunities for developing mutually beneficial business projects.

We are very much committed to effectively implement association agreement, which provides big opportunity for more political association with EU, for more sectoral co-operation, will it be transport, energy, tourism or other sectors and provides most importantly opportunity for full-fledge integration into the economic space and internal market of the European Union. It provides opportunity for free trade of goods and services, free exchange of capital, free flow of capital which is very important for business interaction.
I met today with Georgian businessmen attending this forum today and we see that they are enjoying all this freedom, but there is much more to do. We need to implement more European standards in Georgia, which will ensure more openness, more integration into the EU internal market and we are doing that, we are moving forward with that agenda.

At the same time we are expecting visa-liberalization. Georgia has implemented huge reforms in order to achieve the consistency and EU is now confident that Georgia fulfilled all benchmarks necessary. It’s a new opportunity for business; first of all it’s a new opportunity for small and medium size enterprises to have more interaction to attend trade fairs and to meet with counterparts to talk about trade deals. We are hoping that by June, during this summer, very soon we will be able to get visa-free travel opportunity and it will really provide tangible results for more business to business interaction.

Georgia is moving rapidly also towards the NATO integration, we are contributing to the international and global security and the interests of the allies, we stand by our partners, we stand up in protecting security not only of our region, but beyond. We are one of the largest contributors to the resolute support mission in Afghanistan, we participate in European security peace keeping missions and we believe that it’s a mission of Georgia to be together with our partners and allies. We hope that Georgia will also achieve very substantial progress on integration path with NATO with the support of our partners.

As I mentioned in the beginning, we believe that Georgia has a role of connecting Europe with Asia and it’s a historical positioning of Georgia and we are investing a lot in farther development of this function of Georgia. We are very actively involved in new Silk Road project, which is oriented on connecting Asia with Europe. We are investing in road infrastructure we are finalizing the construction of railway which will connect Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey thus creating new routes between Asia and Europe. We launched construction of a new port, deep sea port at the black sea, which will be able to receive large ships and will be additional incentive for Europe-Asia trade. Minister has already mentioned that there are new transport projects on the development in which Georgia participates very actively.

Georgia is looking forward to more interaction with Latvia in all these projects of regional importance, not only transport projects but Georgia is a very important player in the region in terms of energy diversification and providing to Europe new energy recourses. We believe that it’s our role also to be reliable partner when it comes to energy diversification to Europe and to help our partners and colleagues to ensure reliable supplies.

We are moving forward with liberalizing our business environment; Georgia today has one of the most liberal trade and economic policies in place and one of the most liberal tax policies. We are moving even further, we are abolishing profit tax and it will create more opportunities for businesses to reinvest in Georgia to create new jobs. We are providing incentives like “Produce in Georgia” initiative, when it comes to production and manufacturing in Georgia. We are investing a lot in not only hard infrastructure and infrastructural projects, also in soft policies to be a flawless and efficient corridor when it comes to trade and doing business with a region.

We are having new opportunities in the region not only for trade and doing business with the Caucasus region but also with Central Asia, Far East, China, India, Iran and etc. There are real opportunities for all of you to come to Georgia and to find very specific projects of your interests. We are developing certain sectors, which have huge potential in Georgia, first of all its tourism and we are happy to see that there is a great interest from Latvians to travel to Georgia. We have direct flights but we need to work more in order to have more flights and even cheaper flights and we have companies, tourism agencies interested in working with the Latvian counterparts and we hope that this interaction will develop further our cultural and tourism exchanges. We are investing in ski resorts; we are investing in wine tourism, historical tourism, adventure tourism, sea tourism, so many areas. It’s one of the key directions of our economy and we hope very much, that business as well as citizens of Latvia and Latvian people will enjoy tourism interaction with Georgia.

At the same time there are opportunities in agricultural sector, we see huge interest also to export more goods to the European market. We have huge projects in energy field, hydro energy and clean energy; Georgia may become a reliable supplier of clean energy to neighboring counties and in the future, of Europe. At the same time we have opportunities as it was mentioned in trades and logistics and I am happy to see here also companies in that sector. These are the real opportunities especially with this new project as I mentioned, railway, highways and ports.

We consider Latvia also as a very important platform for doing business in Europe and as a very important access and gateway to not only Eastern European and Baltic countries but also to Europe in general. We have already very good co-operation in that regard, there are Georgian companies already finding these opportunities, but we want more Georgian companies to be aware of these opportunities in Latvia.

I am very optimistic that today’s business forum will provide this information and also possible visits to Georgia will also raise awareness about the Latvian opportunities of doing business in Georgia, it is of the utmost importance that our political friendship, that friendship between our nations also brings some tangible results in the economy and business to business relations and I wish you all successful forum and I hope to see you all in Georgia and also having successful business with Georgia.

Thank you very much for your attention