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Georgian PM opens Silk Road Forum

By Natalia Kochiashvili
Wednesday, October 23
Tbilisi is hosting the Silk Road Forum on October 22-23 for the third time and welcomes 2,000 government and business sector representatives from around 60 countries to discuss opportunities of strengthening political, economic and cultural relations between Asia and Europe.

The forum, organized by the Government of Georgia is to discuss important issues in areas of transport and transport corridors, communications, trade, energy, and tourism. The Silk Road Forum 2019 is attended by local and foreign businessmen, representatives of international organizations and the diplomatic corps, as well as international experts and journalists.

The opening ceremony of the forum was held on October 22 at Tbilisi Opera and Ballet Theatre.

Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia opened the 2-day Tbilisi Silk Road Forum and stated that the conception of the New Silk Road, to connect Europe with Asia, and the participation in the initiative is among the top priorities of the Georgian government.

“Historically Georgia has played an important role in the development of the Silk Road. In the modern world, when economic integration and globalization are in action, the development of trade and economic relations between countries is of top importance and we are proud to be part of the Silk Road initiative which serves the goal of close economic, state-to-state cooperation,” said Gakharia.

According to the PM, Georgia was one of the first countries which applauded the Chinese Belt and Road initiative (also known as a new Silk Road), in order to create new trade corridors between Europe and Asia and improve existing ones.

He stated that the Tbilisi Silk Road Forum is “an important opportunity” and a platform on which the countries involved in the Silk Road initiative, international organisations, and the private sector discuss regional economic challenges, searching for ways on how to overcome the challenges and share the experience.

“I am sure that the Tbilisi Silk Road Forum will play an important role in the implementation of the Silk Road initiative. We believe that the forum will help Georgia carry out its function, to be a connecting bridge between Europe and Asia, more effectively,” said Gakharia.

Gakharia also said that Georgia “has taken big steps” over the past several years to develop its transport and logistic fields and infrastructure, to refine laws and integrate itself into global transport systems.

Speaking at the opening of the forum, the Georgian Prime Minister said business is the main driver of economic growth and the ultimate beneficiary of governments' trade reforms.

According to him, the relatively small administrative, logistical and transport barriers, simplified and harmonized trade processes contribute to the strengthening of trade between countries.

“It is important to create a stable, predictable and attractive environment for multinational players in the region: Removing non-tariff barriers, alleviating border crossings and other administrative procedures. It should be emphasized that Georgia has one of the most liberal trade policies in the world, with more than 80 percent of the imported goods being taxed at 0 percent import duties, simplified customs procedures and minimal non-tariff barriers,” said the PM.

Gakharia noted that Georgia, as only a 3.7 million consumer market, might be considered unattractive.

"However, if we look at Georgia as a regional hub, we will see a big difference and we perceive it as a gateway, not only in the Caucasus but also with access to Central Asia, Europe and the larger western and eastern markets. Given the main infrastructure of the consumer markets from free trade agreements that we already have and favorable investment environment in Georgia, you will be met with investment preferences, which gives you access to 2.3 billion consumer markets,” the Prime Minister told the participants of the forum.

According to him, these are the Free Trade Agreement with the Republic of China, the European Union, the CIS countries, as well as with Turkey and Ukraine. He also underlined ongoing negotiations with India and Israel.

"Consequently, its strategic location between Europe and Asia, with well-developed transport and customs infrastructure, business-friendly policies, a strong regional and regional trade relations, Georgia has a huge potential to become a hub and as historically, continue to play an important role between East and West in order to facilitate trade ", - said Gakharia during his speech at the forum.

The opening panel of the event - "Together for a Common Future: Models of Sustainable and Sustainable Growth" was moderated by Nouriel Roubini, Professor of Economics at New York's Stern School of Business.

In his speech, Roubini focused on current trends in world economic growth and trade and spoke about the importance of globalization, innovation and inclusive economy for the further economic development of countries. In the opening panel, Rubin welcomed the Silk Road initiative and the economic reforms that are underway in the region.

"The economic reforms that countries are pursuing in this region and the Silk Road initiative will lead them to economic success both in this region and globally," said Roubini.

"There are potential risks in the global economy, but there are many opportunities both for the global economy and for this region and for this country if the right economic policy is pursued. Economic reforms in Georgia are exemplary for many countries in terms of macro and structural reforms. The country has a growth of about 5% and you will achieve more with the right reforms. First of all, a sound fiscal policy is needed. Low budget deficit and low level of public debt. The external deficit is decreasing in the country, which is directly related to foreign investment. Along with macroeconomic stability, productivity growth and high economic growth needs to be achieved, which includes reforms that increase the potential for economic growth,” announced Roubini.

Shakespeare Chen, vice-president of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), spoke of Georgia’s ratings: “This country ranks 6th in the ranking of doing business. Georgia has implemented a number of reforms. This is the direction we can develop further.”

Chen spoke about the importance of transport corridors, technology development, tourism promotion and the creation of additional jobs.