Georgian PM Nika Gilauri reiterated on October 7 Tbilisi's position that it would support Russia's WTO membership if Moscow allows to make customs checkpoints located in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, two breakaway regions which Russia has recognized as independent states, "transparent".
"We support Russia's membership to WTO, but with one condition, that all the rules of WTO should be followed and part of the rules of WTO is that customs checkpoints between two countries must be transparent. Unfortunately, right now because of occupied territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia these two customs checkpoints [one in Abkhazia and another one in South Ossetia] are not transparent and we are requesting only one thing and this [condition] is to follow WTO rules," PM Gilauri, who is visiting Washington, said in an interview with CNBC.
In separate remarks made while speaking to an audience at the Atlantic Council in Washington, Gilauri said that Tbilisi was not linking its demand to Russia to withdraw troops from Abkhazia and South Ossetia to WTO membership. He said it was “a separate issue” and it had “nothing to do” with WTO. He retreated that in respect of WTO, Tbilisi wanted Russia to make customs checkpoints transparent.
The White House announced last week that the U.S. and Russia made the "substantial progress" in resolving bilateral issues and that Russia had taken "significant steps" toward joining WTO.
"President Obama pledged to support Russia's efforts to complete remaining steps in multilateral negotiations so that Russia could join the WTO as soon as possible," the White House said in a statement after a phone conversation between the Russian and U.S. Presidents on October 1.
PM Gilauri, who leads the Georgian delegation of senior officials in Washington for the meeting of U.S.-Georgia Strategic Partnership Commission, met with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on October 6. The Georgian PM told CNBC that Secretary Clinton's remarks at the meeting held in frames of the strategic partnership charter between the two countries on October 6, was "excellent."
"All the right points were made about occupied territories - these are not breakaway regions, these are occupied territories - she demanded Russian troops to leave Georgian territory and actually she promised additional support - political, as well as economic," he said.
Speaking on Georgia's economy, PM Gilauri said that after "difficult year" of 2009, which saw 3.9% contraction, economy was expected to grow 5 to 6% this year.
Georgia's real GDP grew 6.6% in the first half of 2010 year-on-year to nominal GEL 9.201 billion, according to preliminary figures, released by the state statistic office last month.
He said that foreign direct investment was also increasing and Georgia was becoming "kind of investment hub" with investors basing thier businesses in the country to then expand into the Caucasus, Central Asia, Ukraine and Turkey.
Although FDI inflow grew 11% year-on-year in second quarter of 2010 to USD 196.9 million, an overall FDI in the first half was still down by 6.38% year-on-year, according to the preliminary figures released by the Georgian state statistics office.
Georgian Finance Minister, Kakha Baindurashvili, said this week that the government expected USD 1 billion FDI in 2010.
"Next year won't be an absolute breakthrough, of course, in attracting investment, but I think it will be a turn towards real growth," he told Reuters.