Georgian and Russian experts plan technical consultations to discuss potential effects of deep and comprehensive free trade agreement (DCFTA), which Tbilisi plans to sign with the EU on Friday, on bilateral Georgian-Russian trade.
Holding of such consultations “in the near future” was discussed during a phone conversation between Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin and Georgian PM’s special envoy for relations with Russia, Zurab Abashidze, on June 23, the Russian Foreign Ministry said.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said that among other issues, Karasin and Abashidze also discussed holding of consultations between the experts about “trade-economic problems in the contest of upcoming signature by Tbilisi of the Association Agreement and free trade area with the EU.”
Georgian Foreign Minister, Maia Panjikidze, said that experts will address technical details of bilateral Georgian-Russian trade after Tbilisi signs the free trade agreement with the EU.
Panjikidze said that it should not be in the interest of Russia to make a setback in progress that has already been achieved in bilateral trade after Russia lifted embargo on import of the Georgian products.
“This technical meeting [between the experts] will aim to clarify how bilateral trade will proceed with Russia,” she said.
Such technical consultations between Tbilisi and Moscow have also been encouraged by the EU. Brussels is already holding technical meetings with Russia to discuss effects of the EU-Ukraine deep and comprehensive free trade treaty on Russia’s economy. The EU states that DCFTA is compatible with Ukraine's or other countries’ participation in free trade agreements of the Commonwealth of Independent States and a suspension of the preferential trade relations between these countries and Russia would be unwarranted.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said on May 22 that it is Georgia’s sovereign right to sign the Association Agreement with the EU, but it should also understand possible consequences, and pointed out in this context to the fact that Russia has recently become Georgia’s third largest trading partner after Moscow lifted embargo on import of Georgian wines and other products.
European Commission President, José Manuel Barroso, said when he visited Georgia on June 12-13 that the EU is ready to engage in discussions with Russia if the latter has concerns and wants to “clarify” some of the aspects of the DCFTA.
“We do not see these agreements as exclusive. Georgia can of course establish other agreements with other countries,” Barroso said. “We do not oppose Georgia’s relations with other countries. We are finalizing free trade agreements with many countries in the world that also have free trade agreements with other countries. We do not see trade as confrontation; we see trade as cooperation.”
“I want to reiterate our willingness to pursue talks with Russia to discuss the concrete implementation of these agreements in case there are some concerns on the Russian side. Of course we have to respect the agreements what was already decided by the governments of these countries, but if there are some concerns, some technical issues that our Russian partners want to clarify, we are ready for it,” Barroso said.
He also said that “there is some propaganda going on trying to say that our agreement is against someone.”
“No, our agreement is against nobody, it’s for free trade. We don’t see trade politically, we see trade as more opportunities for growth and jobs,” Barroso added.
He also said that while DCFTA does not exclude Georgia to have free trade treaties with other countries, Russian-led Customs Union is “different issue, because it is about common external tariff and if you have common external tariff that is higher than the tariffs in the free trade area then it’s incompatible.”