Concluding remarks by the Chairperson

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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 Georgia’s exports.

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