The Lonely Planet travel guide describes Georgia as “one of the most beautiful countries on earth.”
Situated between Europe and Asia, this former Soviet republic is shaped by rugged mountains, rivers, valleys and meadows.
It’s the birthplace of former Soviet Union dictator Joseph Stalin and many historians believe it’s also the birthplace of wine. The first vine plantings stretch back more than 8,000 years.
A deeply complicated history has given Georgia a wonderful heritage of architecture and arts, from cave cities to ancient cathedrals.
Quaint villages and towns still dot the countryside close to modern, charming cities like Tbilisi, Batumi, and Borjomi.
Georgia not only offers unspoiled natural beauty – it also offers great investment opportunities.
“Australian exporters who are strongly focussed on Asia – in particular China – may be missing out on opportunities in smaller countries such as Georgia,” says Jemal Inaishvili, president of the Confederation of Asia Pacific Chambers of Commerce and Industry (CACCI).
Mr Inaishvili recently visited Sydney for the World Chambers Congress, the world’s largest business networking event.
In an exclusive interview with Dynamic Export, Mr Inaishvili said Australian exporters should seriously consider Georgia as a trading partner.
Mr Inaishvili – a proud Georgian – is also honorary chairman of the Silk Road Chamber of International Commerce (SRCIC) and member of the ICC World Chambers Federation General Council.
He is also a former president of the Council of the Georgian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and a former member of the Georgian Parliament. And he has been awarded with the Medal of Honour of Georgia, one of the country’s highest civilian awards.
Most of his time is dedicated to promoting the chamber movement and facilitating trade and investments in the region.
CACCI, which boasts 29 members from 26 countries, last year celebrated its 50th anniversary.
At the Opening Ceremony of the World Business Congress Mr Inaishvili addressed more than 1000 delegates from around the world.
He was also the moderator for a panel discussion Discover Asia Pacific’s Business Opportunities Through CACCI and met with several delegations during the Congress including Russia and Iran.
When it comes to his home country, Mr Inaishvili is perhaps its greatest ambassador.
“Geographically Georgia is in Europe and Asia, he explains. “It borders the very western part of Asia and the very eastern part of Europe.”
Georgia is surrounded by Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkey and Russia by land and Ukraine by sea.
It has major ports in the Caspian and Black Sea servicing central Asia. It is also a hub for landlocked countries in the region.
Mr Inaishvili says there is currently very little trade between Australia and Georgia as most Australian exporters are unaware of the opportunities now available.
High quality products
“And except mining and wine, most Georgians do not know much about the products that are currently available in Australia.
“Australia has a lot to offer – high quality products at very competitive prices.
“A businessman from Georgia in my delegation visited a local Australian supermarket while visiting Sydney.
“He found some top quality consumer goods at very competitive prices.
“So, he contacted two companies and signed a contract with both to supply goods to Georgia.”
Mr Inaishvili says although Georgia has a small population (about 3.7 million), it also supplies neighbouring countries Armenia and Azerbaijan. And the country attracts more than six million tourists each year.
There is currently strong demand for top quality Australian products like meat, wine, agricultural produce (fruit and vegetables) and consumer goods in these regions, he says.
Georgia offers exporters a strong economy, political stability and a safe and friendly investor environment.
Mr Inaishvili says CACCI is planning to host an Australian trade delegation in Georgia next year.
Australian businesses will have an opportunity to showcase their products and network with local buyers.
“Qatar Airways has regular flights to Tbilisi (Georgia’s capital) with just a single transit stop in Doha,” he says.
Negative trade balance
“Tourism is the best way to discover our country – and quite often tourists become interested in importing or exporting products.”
Georgia is the 120th largest export economy in the world and the 68th most complex economy, according to the Economic Complexity Index (ECI).
In 2015, Georgia exported $2.77 billion and imported $7.72 billion, resulting in a negative trade balance of $4.95 billion.
The top exports of Georgia are copper ore ($257 million), refined petroleum ($218m), Ferroalloys ($202m), other nuts ($190m) and motor vehicles ($165m).
The top export destinations of Georgia are:
- Azerbaijan ($249m)
- Bulgaria ($243m)
- Turkey ($228m)
- Russia ($183m)
- United States ($168m)
The top import origins are:
- Turkey ($1.33 billion)
- China ($622m)
- Russia ($571m)
- Ireland ($458m)
- Ukraine ($448m)
Georgia has been a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) since 2000.
To date, it has signed FTAs with CIS countries that include Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, as well as its neighbours, Turkey, Azerbaijan and Armenia.
It is now negotiating a free trade agreement with China.
All foreign travellers to Georgia enjoy highly accessible and service-oriented customs policies and administrative protocol. There is almost no custom duty, with 90% of goods being exempt from import tariffs, with no quantitative restrictions.
The average time for customs clearance is currently about 15 minutes – one of the fastest and most efficient in the CIS.