Trade Policy Review: Georgia
This first Trade Policy Review of Georgia has
given us a much clearer understanding of the evolution of Georgia’s trade
policies since its accession to the WTO, together with the challenges it
faces. I thank Ms Kovziridze and her delegation and I would also like to
acknowledge the valuable contribution of the discussant, Mr Krzysztof
Januszek of Poland, and of Members for their active and insightful
participation in this exercise. The reports by the Georgian authorities and
the Secretariat, as well as the detailed responses of the delegation of
Georgia to the many questions posed, have contributed to transparency both
within Georgia and as far as the WTO membership is concerned.
Members commended Georgia’s commitment to openness
in trade and foreign investment as well as recent progress in economic
liberalization. Members praised Georgia for its impressive economic
performance during most of the review period, with an average annual GDP
growth rate of 9-10%, in considerable part due to reforms, which have been
widely recognized. In particular, important trade reforms have taken place
in the areas of tariffs, improvement of Customs, business licensing and the
adoption of trade legislation compatible with international standards.
Nonetheless, Georgia has only partially succeeded in improving the external
competitiveness of the private sector and, in this regard, Georgia was
encouraged to continue its structural reforms to make its markets more
flexible, attract investment into export activities, improve productivity
and competitiveness, and thereby help sustain growth.
Members congratulated Georgia on its liberal trade
regime with its simple tariff structure and one of the lowest average
applied MFN tariff rates in the world whilst almost 85% of imports enter
Georgia duty-free. It was also noted that Georgia had not resorted to any
restrictive measures since the onset of the economic crisis. Georgia’s
commitment to the WTO system was emphasized and Georgia was urged to follow
through on its readiness to join the Government Procurement Agreement.
Georgia was also encouraged to enhance WTO notifications in a number of
areas. Regarding alignment with international standards and practices,
Members noted that there is room for improvement in a number of areas such
as SPS, technical regulations, competition policy and intellectual property
rights enforcement, which point to the broader, more long-term problem of
capacity building in general.
Members noted that exports, which account for
about one-fifth of Georgia’s GDP, have not matched the strong overall
economic growth rate in the review period. Georgia’s main exports remain
concentrated in a few low-value added products, reflecting limited success
in efforts to diversify exports. Members were interested to know from
Georgia the policies and measures it proposes to take to enhance its exports
in the coming years.
Members appreciated the replies provided by the
delegation of Georgia and looked forward to further responses. In
conclusion, the numerous questions and active discussion indicate the
importance Members attach to this Review. I encourage Georgia to take to
heart Members’ concerns and I hope it will continue with its reform process
which has resulted in strong economic performance and has helped the country
to become a significant regional trade corridor. At the same time I invite
Members to assist Georgia by providing appropriate technical assistance,
including trade capacity building, and by further opening their markets to
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