Georgian PM Irakli Garibashvili met Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on September 10 on the sideline of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in the China’s northeastern port city of Dalian.
“One of the main topics of discussion with the Chinese Premier was about launching free trade talks… Georgia will become the first country in the entire region, and not only in the Caucasus, but in wider region, in Europe too, which will have free trade with China. It will contribute to strengthening of our economy,” PM Garibashvili said. In Europe China has free trade agreements with Iceland and Switzerland.
Georgia and China agreed in March to launch feasibility study of possible bilateral free trade agreement between the two countries. According to a study by Tbilisi-based Policy and Management Consulting Group (PMCG) and China’s University of International Business and Economics, free trade agreement between the two countries will result in 9% increase in Georgian export to China.
The Georgian PM also said that Georgia has “intensified relations with China over the past two-three years.”
“Now relations between Georgia and China are moving to a completely new level. I had a very interesting and fruitful meeting with the Chinese Premier. We have discussed projects of strategic importance,” he said.
Reiterating support for China’s initiative of One Belt, One Road plan to rebuild Silk Road trade links and develop infrastructure along the route, the PM said Georgia “wants to be part of this project as it will create new opportunities for our country.”
“We do not want Georgia to be the place of and reason for confrontation. We want our country to be the place for reconciliation, negotiations, mutual understanding and peace. Therefore we should everything in order to have a progress in accomplishing this mission,” PM Garibashvili said.
PM’s trip to China will continue with visit to Beijing where he will meet senior executives from the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) on September 11. A two-day meeting of officials from the founding members of the AIIB was held in Tbilisi last month. Garibashvili said on September 10, that he expects to attract funding from the bank for number of infrastructure projects in Georgia.
“The Chinese Premier noted that they are interested in Chinese companies to participate in the Anaklia deep-sea port project,” the PM said, referring to planned port project on Georgia’s Black Sea coast.
State-owned Power Construction Corporation of China (PowerChina) is in one of the two consortia, which have moved through to the final phase of the bidding process on design, construction and operation of Anaklia port.
Also on September 10 Georgia’s Foreign Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili, who is accompanying the PM, met in Dalian with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a press release after the meeting that the two countries are deepening cooperation in trade, economy and infrastructure sectors. It also said that cooperation in frames of China’s initiative on New Silk Road will also help to speed up negotiations on the bilateral free trade agreement.