Georgia is the regional leader in terms of investment attractiveness and stability. Georgia has created one of the best investment environments with effective state services, a corruption-free state, and a free, fair, and open business environment, as evidenced by various ratings by international organizations, and our positions continue to improve. Making a case for investing in Georgia becomes increasingly easy for several reasons. First, investing in Georgia requires little legal hassle and normative adjustment. Georgia's Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area Agreement with the EU, signed in 2014, is of particular importance to us, as it envisions the gradual economic integration of Georgia with the EU's internal market. DCFTA has already brought about tangible results-Georgia's export into the EU has increased by 15% in 2016, while the export of some products, such as hazelnuts, copper, or mineral oils, has even doubled and tripled. This year, Georgia is starting to export to the EU a new product, honey, which is expected to become the leading product from Georgia, along with wine, hazelnuts, and blueberries. Secondly, Georgia, together with Azerbaijan, is a window to a number of markets, including the economies of Central Asia and the Far East. In this respect, we provide physical access through modern transport infrastructure and normative access in terms of free trade agreements. Specifically, we have already finalized negotiations and Georgia will be the first country in the region to have a Free Trade Agreement with China. We also have in place FTA agreements with the CIS countries, Turkey, and GSP regimes with the United States, Canada and Japan and plan to launch negotiations with India this year. Thanks to a liberal trade regime, low taxes, and our strategic location, Georgia has become a new regional frontier for investment opportunities. Thirdly, Georgia offers one of the best business environments in the world, which improves year on year. The Government of Georgia is currently implementing a 4-Point Reform Plan in four key sectors: 1) Bettering the country's business environment (tax legislation, tax administration reform, and promotion of entrepreneurship),
2) Measures seeking to increase governance transparency and inclusiveness,
3) Development of the country's infrastructure (highways and railroads, existing and new ports, transport and logistics hubs-Georgia, together with Azerbaijan and Turkey, is developing the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railroad, which will launch its operations this year), and
4) higher education reform. Under the reforms above, the startup support program is one of the key initiatives. In July 2016, Startup Georgia, a venture financing program, was announced. The project is implemented by Georgia's Innovation and Technology Agency and the Partnership Fund. Over 720 applications with innovative business ideas have been submitted under the program. As part of the project's hi-tech component, the Government, together with experts from the Silicon Valley, US, reviewed and shortlisted the 20 most effective and far-reaching startups. When it comes to a pro-business regulatory framework, Georgia has a world class outlook as a business destination. Georgia ranks 16 in the world - out of 190 countries, according to the World Bank's 2017 Ease of Doing Business index, thus improving its positions by 7 points compared to 23rd place in 2015. On the 2017 Index of Economic Freedom, Georgia placed 13th in the world, and 5th in Europe. Georgia today makes a case for investment in heavy and light manufacturing, as well as services. With high-speed trains, new road systems, and the future port near Anaklia, the only deep-sea port on the Eastern side of the Black Sea which sits on the shortest route from China to Europe that will operate year-round-we will not merely provide access to markets, but will create markets.
One major recent achievement, which will come into force tomorrow, is visa waiver for Georgia's citizens recently approved by the EU. We hope that it will help simplify people-to-people contacts and enhance business opportunities between Georgia and the EU. We certainly hope that similar opportunities will open up soon for our friends, Ukraine's citizens. We are convinced that deeper trade, economic, and transport cooperation within GUAM will have a positive impact on the further development of and reforms in our economies, ultimately to bring tangible results to our entrepreneurs and societies as a whole.
In this context, we welcome the signing of two documents, one on improving the functioning of the GUAM Free Trade Area and the other on enhancing the competitiveness of the GUAM Transport Corridor.
In closing, I would like to invite you all to visit Georgia and experience first-hand all that it has to offer.
Please accept my sincere wishes for success!
Prime Minister's Press Office