Georgia and China signed a memorandum of understanding on December 10 on launch of negotiations on free trade agreement between the two countries.
The memorandum was signed in Beijing by Georgia’s Economy Minister Dimitri Kumsishvili and China’s International Trade Representative, Deputy Minister of Commerce Zhong Shan.
The signing of memorandum comes nine months after the two countries agreed to launch feasibility study of possible bilateral free trade agreement.
“The both sides are willing to conclude these negotiations as soon as possible,” Georgian Economy Minister, Dimitri Kumsishvili, said. “This is a very important event for our country.”
China was Georgia’s third largest trading partner in the first nine months of 2015 with turnover of USD 534.8 million. Georgian exports to China increased 35.2% year-on-year to USD 87.3 million, mainly due to 49.3% hike in export of copper ores and concentrates to USD 70.1 million. Imports from China were down by 18.6% to USD 447.4 million in the first nine months of 2015.
“Our focus is on the Georgian wine and agriculture and I am convinced that the Georgian wine will have very preferential regime for entering the Chinese market after we conclude these negotiations [on free trade agreement],” the Georgian Economy Minister said.
China is currently the fourth largest export market for Georgian wine after Russia, Kazakhstan and Ukraine.
1.8 million bottles of wine were exported to China in the first ten months of this year – an 87% increase compared to the same period of last year.
Also on December 10 the Georgian Economy Minister participated in a meeting of Georgia-China inter-governmental commission.
The Georgian Economy Ministry said that it was of “principle importance” for Georgia to have “China’s confirmation in welcoming participation of Chinese companies in construction of Anaklia deep-sea port” on Georgia’s Black Sea coast.
State-owned Power Construction Corporation of China (PowerChina) is in one of the two consortiums, which in June moved through to the final phase of the bidding process on design, construction and operation of Anaklia port. Initially the Georgian government was planned to announce a winning consortium by early autumn, but it was delayed for unspecified period.
During the visit Economy Minister Dimitri Kumsishvili also met China’s National Tourism Administration chairman Li Jinzao.
According to the Georgian Economy Ministry, it was agreed to establish a joint working group that will identify factors which do not contribute to attracting more Chinese tourists to Georgia.
International arrivals in Georgia increased 6.9% year-on-year to 5.43 million in the first eleven months of this year; arrivals from China accounted for only 0.16%.
Georgia’s newly developed first long-term strategy for its tourism industry targets to achieve 11 million international arrivals by 2025 and to increase tourism receipts from the current level of USD 1.8 billion to USD 5.5 billion.