Tbilisi and Moscow have welcomed “constructive” and “useful” technical expert-level consultations held in Prague on July 7 on potential effects of Georgia’s deep and comprehensive free trade agreement (DCFTA) with the EU on bilateral Georgian-Russian trade.
The meeting between representatives of the economy and foreign ministries of the two countries preceded talks between Georgian PM’s special representative for relations with Moscow, Zurab Abashidze, and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, Grigory Karasin, who met in Prague on July 9 for a seventh time since the launch of this format of “informal dialogue” in December, 2012.
“Interlocutors [Karasin and Abashidze] have welcomed start of contacts between the Russian and Georgian experts for the purpose of analyzing new factors that emerged in bilateral trade-economic relations” after Georgia signed DCFTA with the EU, the Russian Foreign Ministry said. “The first round of consultations between the experts was held in Prague on July 7 in a constructive atmosphere.”
Speaking with journalists after meeting with Abashidze, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Karasin said that Georgia’s DCFTA with the EU will definitely have an impact on trade between Georgia and Russia, but the issue needs a thorough examination, including in the context of customs duties, in order to avoid “negative surprises.”
“Consultations were held between our experts about what kind of impact the Association Agreement [which includes DCFTA] will have. I think that our preliminary impressions concur. It is very important that these consultations [between experts] took place. Concrete and open dialogue is needed about how it will impact our bilateral trade,” Karasin said.
“I think that there is no need to threaten neither ourselves nor partners in advance with measures and sanctions; what is needed is to sit down calmly in mutual respect and thoroughly calculate in which areas and to what extent changes may occur in trade and economic ties between our countries following the recent signature by Georgia of the Association Agreement with the EU,” RIA Novosti reported quoting Karasin, who added that further decisions should be based on these calculations.
He said that all these issues are especially important against the background of increasing trade turnover between the two countries.
Georgia’s bilateral trade with Russia increased 35.4% in the first five months of 2014, compared to the same period of last year, mostly due to 3.5-fold increase in Georgian exports to Russia
Zurab Abashidze told journalists that the expert-level meeting in Prague was “really useful and important” in terms of exchange of information.
“No dramatic changes are expected in our trade relations,” the Georgian PM’s special envoy said. “But, of course, the Russian side tries to clarify whether this new reality – signing of the Association Agreements by Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia – will pose any threat to Russia’s economy and its market. Our position is clear. We do not think that Georgia’s Association Agreement with the EU comes in conflict with normal, mutually beneficial trade relations with Russia or with any other neighbor.”
The two diplomats have also discussed possibility of resumption of regular flights between Tbilisi and Moscow starting from September 15, 2014. Currently charter flights operate between the two countries.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said that Karasin and Abashidze hailed cooperation between the Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations and the Georgian Interior Ministry’s department for emergency situations in addressing consequences of a landslide in Dariali gorge, which blocked traffic via border-crossing point between the two countries for almost a month.
“It was noted with satisfaction that it was possible to resume in the shortest period traffic via important trade route in the South Caucasus,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said.
The next meeting between Abashidze and Karasin has been scheduled for October, the Russian Foreign Ministry and Georgian PM’s office said.