Prime Minister of Georgia Launches First EaP Investment Forum Print Version

2019-07-11

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Distinguished Guests,
Dear Friends,

It is a great honor and pleasure to open this inaugural Eastern Partnership Investment Forum and welcome you to Georgia. I would like to thank the Center for European Governance and Economy for holding this important event along with the 16th Batumi International Conference as we celebrate an important milestone - the 10th anniversary of the Eastern Partnership.

I would like to thank our colleagues from the six Eastern Partnership countries for sharing our enthusiasm and joining us in this endeavor. We are also grateful for the European Union's support provided to this important new initiative and our Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development for co-organizing today's gathering and bringing us all together.

High level presence and engagement from EIB and EBRD is also greatly appreciated and important to make sure that the initiative brings tangible results and attracts more investments into our economies.

This year we celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Eastern Partnership. 10 years ago, we opened a new chapter in the history of the European Union and the six Eastern partner countries. It was indeed a bold and visionary idea that allowed the EU to exercise its transformative power and expand the area of economic prosperity and development.

Although there have been setbacks, we have made a huge progress in the past decade. These ten years have brought us closer to the EU and deepened and strengthened our ties with each other. For most of us, it has been a decade of wide-ranging reforms, hard work and remarkable transformation. After 10 years, we stand as a prime example of the success of the Eastern Partnership, its political association and economic integration.

The signature of the landmark Association Agreements, including the DCFTA, was a major historic milestone taking our integration from the realm of foreign to domestic policy. I would like to stress that my government has given - and will continue to give - top priority to the commitments of our Association agenda.

Eastern Partnership is first and foremost about the power of connectivity. Georgia is the best example of how a small country with limited resources can capitalize on the opportunities provided by the DCFTA to create a multi-dimensional hub in the region.

Georgia is a safe haven situated at a place where companies can engage everyone. Given our ease of doing business, stability, and rule of law, as well as our cooperative relationships with all our neighbors and near-neighbors, today Georgia is an excellent jumping-off spot for doing business in the wider region.

We view our role as a bridge between regions, economies and people as a built-in advantage. Strategically located between Europe and Asia, Georgia is a natural bridge between the two continents, serving 8 landlocked countries in its trade with the EU.

Step-by-step Georgia is becoming a hub for Doing Business, Investment, Finance, Innovation, Tourism, Trade and logistics. Georgia has already become a vital transit and energy corridor. Pipelines linking Caspian oil and gas fields to Turkey and Europe pass through Georgia, as well as new road and rail networks that make Georgia an important logistical hub. The further development of our Black Sea ports strengthen Georgia's role as a Silk Road hub as well.

In fact, it is not only our role as a regional hub that draws investors to Georgia. Our expansive economic vision is built around the three-pillar strategy that make investments more advantageous in our country.

First, we are leveraging our unique strategic location, natural advantages, and sound financial stewardship to sustain our economic growth that has been averaging 5 percent. We are investing heavily to achieve inclusive growth through a comprehensive education reform that will further unlock the potential of our citizens. We will spend a quarter of our national budget on education and education industries, ultimately accounting for 12 percent of the GDP together with Private Sector, making education leading sector in our economy.

Our tech-savvy, well-educated workforce has already gone international. We intend Georgia to be in the vanguard of the worldwide knowledge revolution. As part of this effort, we are building new specialized schools for high tech engineering and other modern skills. I am personally focused on building an innovation-driven ecosystem in Georgia. In fact, Georgia is the first country in the world to introduce Blockchain technologies in public service delivery.

Second, we strive to become the gold standard in ease of doing business and legal transparency. Today Georgia has the 3rd lowest tax burden in the world; and is N6 in terms of Ease of Doing business according to World Bank. We are also ranked among top 20 European countries in the rule of law index.

Third, Georgia is becoming an integral part of the global economy. Georgia sits at the heart of a vast and growing network of free trade deals and preferential export regimes, stretching from the EU, Turkey, and the CIS countries and the EFTA countries. Georgia is the first country in the region to enjoy a free trade agreement with both the EU, and China with negotiations underway on FTA with India, Israel and the United States. Our partners can access duty-free markets of 2.3 billion people.

Our goal is to integrate Georgia in the global economy in the most efficient way possible.

Georgia is a small nation with a big vision and an open mind to the world. Notwithstanding our size, we must all remember that we live in an increasingly interconnected world and must make it work together.

I am proud that Georgia is considered a success story of the Eastern Partnership. But our region needs more success stories and together with our European partners, we need to invest more time, resources and efforts into bringing our countries closer to the EU.

For this reason, we need to promote greater economic and sectoral integration with the EU. We hope that the EU will remain committed to "more for more" principle by offering more integration in digital single market, energy, transport, education, and other fields; creating greater mobility opportunities for our citizens. European Union's support and reward for our reforms, will be the catalyst of the long-term, sustainable transformation of our region into a zone of peace, stability and prosperity.

In closing, I would like to thank you all for joining us today. I hope you will find time to explore the beautiful city of Batumi and take advantage of famous Georgian hospitality. I hope you find Georgia not only a very hospitable country but a vibrant economy and a good place to do business.

I wish the forum every success and thank you for your attention.