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Russia tries to return Georgian products to its market

By Messenger Staff
Wednesday, August 17
In 2006 among its measures designed to punish Georgia, Russia used economic sanctions banning Georgian wines and mineral waters from its market. This was a massive blow for Georgia's economy as these items made up a large part of Georgian exports. However Russia did not yield any serious political dividends from it, on the contrary Georgia improved the quality of these products, carried out serious marketing efforts and entered the world market. Previously it was satisfying the needs of the former Soviet Union customers only but from 2006 Georgia has raised its products' standards for the world market.

Today the situation with Russia is quite strange. Moscow wants to return Georgian products into its market, however now the Georgian side appears to be indifferent towards the idea.

The 2006 embargo was from the very beginning assessed as a measure to teach Georgia a lesson by using economic levers. Even though Georgia managed to find a new market for its production, it could not fully replace the earnings it had previously yielded from the Russian market. Today, Moscow has several times hinted that it is ready to open its market to Georgian products. The Kremlin also used this topic as a bargaining tool for its accession to WTO which has been blocked by Georgia for so many years. But Tbilisi is in no rush to accept the Russian u-turn, because if Russia joins WTO it will be forced to allow Georgian products into its market anyway. However there is a possibility that Russia could unilaterally still impose another type of embargo on Georgia.

Attempts to return Georgian products to the Russian market had been made by some of the opposition leaders as well. For instance opposition free Georgia leader Kakha Kukava was in Moscow where he met officials and negotiated the return of Georgian products to the Russian market. Of course Georgian officials were in no mind to express any praise for the opposition entities' work in this direction.

Some days ago the notorious Russian sanitary chief Genady Onishenko repeated that Georgian wine and mineral waters can return to Russian market if they pass strict checking and that the quality would need to be guaranteed. It has become known as well that Russian official institution of product inspection Rospotrebnadzor is considering the return to the Russian markets of Georgian mineral water Borjomi. According to the Russian body an application has already been made which the Georgian side is yet to acknowledge.

The situation has a simple explanation. Moscow understood that Tbilisi would not make any kind of applications for the return of its products into Russian territory. The Russian side meanwhile wants to have a democratic and civilized image. Therefore it tries to make steps to encourage Georgian products back on to its market through initiatives of certain private companies, provided they pass international quality standards.

The situation is frankly ridiculous. Georgia can resume its export of its wines and mineral waters into Russia any time officially. This situation will become even more important this year when agriculture specialists predict a very good harvest of grapes, particularly compared with last year. Georgia will definitely have a vast quantity of wine to sell, so this would be an opportunity for the Geogrian authorities to really help Georgian farmers and the agricultural sector in general by re-opening an old and popular market.

The Georgian administration should certainly not connect this situation to the Russian WTO aspirations but should focus instead on the possibility to revive an important sector of its economy.