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Kobalia explains the Georgia-Russia trade stalemate to French media

By Ernest Petrosyan
Wednesday, August 31
“Russia wants to decide for itself which Georgian companies to admit to the Russian Market and which not to” said the Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development Vera Kobalia in an interview to French newspaper La Tribune. “This is how the Russian Federation understands the subject when talking about the lifting of the embargo within the framework of Russian-Georgian negotiations regarding Russia’s WTO membership. This however, has many negative consequences, including corruption and bureaucracy, and Georgia has a principled position regarding free trade”, told Kobalia in the interview.

According to Kobalia, Georgian authorities have nothing against Russia’s WTO membership. “I consider that it is very much possible to find a consensus in the ongoing bilateral negotiations in Switzerland. Furthermore, I would say that Russia’s membership in the WTO will be expedient for Georgia”, stated Kobalia assuming that it might help to resolve other existing Russian-Georgian problems.

Kobalia, however, also emphasized that in the event of Russia’s integration into WTO, Russia will assume certain responsibilities as all member states will have to obey the organizations rules and regulations”, said Kobalia.

As Kobalia explained, customs control should be established that will be recognized on an international level, namely by the US and EU. “It is an economic demand and not a political one. Goods should be controlled at the checkpoints as they are controlled at the Russian-Finnish border”, she added.

The Georgian Foreign Ministry has also voiced several times its attitude regarding the return of Georgian products to the Russian market, underlining that those companies, which have been expelled from the Russian market "have already found new export markets,” Deputy Foreign Minister , Sergi Kapanadze said and added two more reasons for products to return without any special conditions attached “when and if Russia joins WTO, it will have to lift this embargo anyway, because it is impossible for one WTO-member country to have an embargo against another WTO-member for political reasons."

The Georgian opposition is also involved in the negotiation process regarding the embargo removal. The Head of the “Free Georgia” political party Kakha Kukava held negotiations with the Russian Chief Sanitary Inspector Genadiy Onischenko recently regarding the resumption of Georgian Products on the Russian market. According to the party’s press service Kukava will present the plan for the return of Georgian products to the Russian market in the near future.

Economic analyst Nodar Khaduri believes that the Russian side had imposed the embargo on grounds of low quality products and will need to revise its stance. “The embargo was imposed due to the quality of the product, and supposedly only those products which will satisfy the quality requirements will be allowed in the Russian market”, said Khaduri to the Messenger.

The next round of Russian-Georgian talks dedicated to the Russian admission to WTO will be held in Switzerland on September 12, with the mediation of the Swiss Foreign Ministry, where, according to ITAR-TASS agency, the negotiations on the agreement package on removal of obstacles for Russian membership to WTO from the Georgian side is to be discussed.