Joint Statement of the 2016 U.S.-Georgia Economic, Energy, and Trade Working Group

Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs
April 12, 2016

The Economic, Energy, and Trade Working Group of the U.S.-Georgia Strategic Partnership Commission met in Tbilisi, Georgia, on April 12, 2016. Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs Kurt Tong and USAID Assistant Administrator for Europe and Eurasia Thomas O. Melia co-chaired the working group. The U.S. delegation also included Vaughan Turekian, Science and Technology Adviser to the U.S. Secretary of State. First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs David Zalkaliani and Deputy Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development Genadi Arveladze co-chaired the meeting for Georgia.

The Working Group reaffirmed the strong bilateral relationship between the United States and Georgia, emphasized U.S. support for Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic integration path, and identified priorities for future cooperation in economic growth, energy, trade, science, and technology. The United States commended Georgia’s ongoing judicial and other reforms and encouraged Georgia to continue its work in these areas to attract foreign investment, develop trade ties, and bolster energy security.

The Georgian co-chairs presented Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili's Four-Point Economic Reform Plan, which aims to boost the economy and improve Georgia’s investment environment through tax reform, infrastructure improvement, governance reforms, and an education system overhaul. The Georgian side also presented Georgia’s economic outlook and underlined commitments to prudent fiscal policies as well as plans to conduct solid structural reforms. The Working Group discussed the importance of transit infrastructure projects to strengthen Georgia’s growing role as a New Silk Road trade, transportation, and logistics hub. U.S. participants emphasized that the United States will continue to support Georgia’s reform agenda.

The U.S. welcomed Georgia’s progress toward evolving into a regional hub for trade logistics, transportation and manufacturing, and confirmed its continued support for Georgia’s rigorous efforts to become a superhighway of trade and communication along the revived Silk Road. Both sides emphasized the importance of construction of the new Deep Sea Port in Anaklia, which is essential for increasing cargo transit through Georgia. Georgia welcomed the strong support for this project from the U.S. side.

The United States praised the Georgian government for establishing and consulting with the Investors Council, underscoring the significance of government-to-private sector discussions. Both sides welcomed the participation of the President of the American Chamber of Commerce in Georgia in the Working Group, and agreed on the importance of continuing cooperation to promote economic relations between the Georgian and U.S. business sectors.

The United States encouraged the continued implementation of Georgia’s EU Association Agreement and DCFTA-related reforms. Georgia presented its plan for strategic communications that will illustrate to the public the tangible benefits of reforms necessary for Euro-Atlantic integration.

The Working Group also discussed strategies for spurring innovation and entrepreneurship in Georgia, noting the important role of education. Georgia presented updates on the development of state programs to support entrepreneurship, SME development and private sector growth. The U.S. side expressed readiness to assist the Georgian Innovation and Technology Agency (GITA) and Entrepreneurship Development Agency (Enterprise Georgia) in developing the startup and innovation ecosystem in Georgia.

The United States expressed support for Georgia’s plans to strengthen energy security by approximating EU energy regulations, promoting cross-border energy trade and transit through increased infrastructure connectivity with its neighbors. Georgia and the United States agreed on the importance of implementing Georgia’s National Sustainable Development Goals and promoting green economy principles.

The United States and Georgia commended the successful High Level Trade and Investment Dialogue (HLTID) held on October 30, 2015, and stressed the necessity to continue dialogue within the format, including the active engagement in expert level discussions between HLTID sessions. The United States welcomed Georgia’s progress in strengthening intellectual property rights enforcement and labor rights protection and inspection mechanisms, with a view toward completing the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) petition process. The Working Group agreed to continue discussing ways to further strengthen bilateral trade and investment, including the possibility of a free trade agreement, organizing trade missions in both directions, and updates on each country's activities in the area of preferential trade agreements. The Georgian side welcomed progress on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations.

The U.S. side positively assessed the implementation of DCFTA related reforms provided by the Georgian side, and emphasized that the United States will continue to support Georgia’s reform agenda, particularly in implementation of the Association Agreement and its Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area component.

Established in 2009, the Strategic Partnership Commission is the primary mechanism for organizing and prioritizing the broad and deepening cooperation between the United States and Georgia. The Commission includes four bilateral working groups on priority areas identified in the Charter on Strategic Partnership: democracy; defense and security; economics, trade, and energy; and people-to-people and cultural exchanges. For more information, please visit: //