More than 90 executives from 52 Iranian companies arrived in Georgia to look into country’s business and investment opportunities.
On the first day of the visit, an event called “the First Conference and Exhibition of Iran & Georgia Economic & Industrial Cooperation” was held at the ExpoGeorgia exhibition center in Tbilisi, where Iranian businesspeople were briefed in highly positive terms about Georgia’s economic and business environment by Tbilisi-based Iranian diplomats.
During the visit the group of the Iranian businessmen also plans to visit Poti free industrial zone on Georgia’s Black Sea coast.
The delegation includes executives from broad spectrum of businesses ranging from banking, trade, food production, IT and energy to pharmaceutical, construction, industrial and agriculture sectors.
The delegation includes executives and board members from three banks: Bank Saderat Iran; Tejarat Bank and Sina Bank.
Others are from the following companies: canned food manufacturer Aftab Derakhshan Fars Co.; sugar producer Agro Industrial Jovin; exporter of fruit and nuts Jozef; Ravansar Aquatic Animals, Livestock and Poultry Feed Factory; engineering service provider Arme Tarh Espidan; waterproofing membranes producer Bamgostaran Co.; tire manufacturer Barez Industrial Group; steel products trader Bonyan Steel; steel exporter Sepahan Industrial Steel Co.; industrial factory Arman Crusher; manufacturer of testing and measuring equipment Bon Afzar; polymer-additives producer Chimiaran Co.; producer of chemical products (liquid paraffin, cable jelly) Ehsan Chemi; Goldaru Pharmaceutical; Golrang Pharmaceutical Investment Group; Iran Hormone Pharmaceutical; herbal medicine manufacturer Zardband Pharmaceutical Co.; monofilaments producer Iran Boress; provider of technical engineering services to Iran’s energy industry Iran Powerplant Repairs Co.; power transformers producer Iran Transfo; energy and civil engineering company Nima Consulting Engineering; turnkey solution provider in infrastructure and industrial projects Jahanpars Engineering & Construction Co.; steel pipes producer Pipe & Profile Jouybar Luleh Co.; paints and resin producers Sahar Paint and Khodrang Polymer&Reef Iran Chemical Complex; electricity meters manufacturer Kontorsazi Iran; producer of polypropylene bags and fertilizers Koud Golfam Shomal; lighting systems providers Shab Forouz Lighting Industries and Lighting Trading Co. Ltd; bitumen packaging provider Matin Kimia Sepahan; producer of rubber and plastic parts Mouj Andisheh Novin Baspar; shampoo producer Negin Behdasht Aryan Co.; medical devices manufacturer Osveh Asia Medical Instuments Co.; laboratory instruments trader Pak Fan Co.; orthopedic implants trader PTHI Co.; flexible metal conduits producer Rahvard Khorasan Co.; kitchen appliances manufacturers Padisan and Rubino Kitchen Appliances; construction companies Sahand Ab Azarbaijan Consortium (Saaco), Tarh-e Eslim Gostar and Simin Sepehan; ink cartridge manufacturer Sakht System; ICT services provider Sarv Rayaneh; IT and electronic security systems provider Tolue Co.; yarn machine manufacturer Shoka Iranian Knowledge Based Cooperative; plastic pipes producer Vino Plastic; Taksa Trade Development Group; Rise Company; Panam Pushan Polymer; Yalda Trading Co. and municipal and industrial wastewater management firm Zolal Iran.
Two lawmakers from Georgian Dream coalition Gogi Topadze and Zurab Tkemaladze, both from the Industrialists Party, were only Georgian officials present at the conference on July 2, although officials from the Economy Ministry were also invited.
The event was organized in cooperation with the Iranian embassy by an Iranian group, ENN Complex, which provides “consultancy and training services for managers” and organizes forums to promote Iranian businesses abroad.
“It can be said that there are all the conditions in place in Georgia required for foreign companies to launch economic operations,” Iran’s ambassador to Georgia, Abbas Talebifar, told Iranian businessmen at the conference on July 2. “In overall it can also be said that there is an appropriate ground for the Iranian business in Georgia; there are all the conditions for Iranian businessmen to carry out their economic activities and there is also a huge interest from the Georgian private sector to deepen relations with Iran.”
“Based on our historic ties, we think that relations between our countries face no threat. Iranians have always respected Georgian values and have always tried to carry out their activities in line with these traditions and values,” the Iranian ambassador said.
His deputy briefed the Iranian businessmen in more details about Georgia’s economy, tax system and minimal red tape.
He, however, also said that some of the major Georgian banks, among which he named the Bank of Georgia, TBC Bank and Liberty Bank, were applying stringent scrutiny and regulations on Iranian citizens willing to open accounts.
Georgian Justice Minister, Tea Tsulukiani, said on June 21 that the Georgian authorities were closely monitoring business activities of Iranians in Georgia and providing “strict control” over enforcement of sanctions against Iran.
Tsulukiani said that the Georgian authorities froze about 150 bank accounts of Iranian individuals and legal entities.
She made remarks in response to the Wall Street Journal’s June 20 report about increased business activities of the Iranian nationals in Georgia, among them also including investments in private airline FlyGeorgia and JSC InvestBank. The WSJ report said that a large part of the Iran-related businesses in Georgia did not normally run afoul of sanctions, but U.S. and European officials suspected that some illicit funds handled by other Iranians were mixing into the financial flood.
The WSJ article also says that “the surging Iranian presence in Georgia has startled the Obama administration because of deep U.S.-Georgia ties… But when it comes to Iran, Georgia, which recently elected a prime minister [Ivanishvili] who takes a less pro-American stance than [President] Mr. Saakashvili, seeks to forge an independent line, its officials said.”
Responding to this part of the article, the U.S. embassy in Tbilisi said on June 21: “Contrary to certain statements in the article, we see undiminished interest on the part of Georgia's government in strong relations with the United States, and a continued strong desire for Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic integration.”
“Similarly, U.S. concerns involving Iran sanctions evasion here have grown in recent years, and pre-date the current Georgian government,” the U.S. embassy said.
It emerged on July 2 that Georgia unilaterally revoked visa-free rules for the Iranian citizens starting from July 1.
Georgia and Iran signed an agreement on 45-day visa-free travel rules in November, 2010 when then Foreign Minister of Iran visited Georgia. The agreement went into force in late January, 2011, which contributed to increase in number of visits from Iran to Georgia from about 21,300 in 2010 to over 89,600 in 2012.
Bilateral trade between Georgia and Iran increased from USD 70 million in 2010 to USD 118.4 million in 2012, according to the Georgian state statistics office Geostat.
Foreign direct investment from Iran stood at only USD 404,700 in 2012 down from slightly over USD 1 million in 2010, according to Geostat.