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Your Excellencies,

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Welcome to Georgia!

There is no more important time in history, than right now, to be bringing people together, in common purpose, for the common good.
That is why, I am so pleased to welcome you to the third Tbilisi Silk Road Forum.
We are here to underline our historic commitment to the Silk Road and the opportunity it holds to bring us together to invest, grow our economies and maintain peace and stability.
This is the promise of the modern Silk Road initiative.
We all know that this region has significant investment potential. And this potential grows as we apply unified policies, reduce trade barriers, and improve connectivity.

Allow me to focus on Georgia, so that you fully understand how the new Silk Road initiative fits into our economic agenda.

The primary goals of our government are to create more jobs, build a strong middle class, and ensure peace and stability.

Hand in hand with security is the need for a strong economy.

And here, we offer a unique opportunity for investment, trade and innovation, based on our geographic location and business-friendly environment.

Georgia is the gateway to this region. Our goal is to integrate not just East and West, but North and South.

Therefore, Georgia is taking concrete steps to build strong economic relations with all partners in the region and beyond.

In the past few years, Georgia has undergone a profound transformation in terms of establishing strong state institutions, based on the Western principles of democracy, rule of law, and free-market economy.

Our business-friendly policies, strong trade relations, and strategic location have transformed the country into the new regional frontier for investment opportunities.

Today, Georgia offers a liberal taxation system, with very few taxes and low and flat tax rates. In our taxation system, a 0 percent rate is applied to re-invested profit, there is no wealth tax or capital gain tax, and no restrictions on capital repatriation.

According to the World Bank, Georgia is the 3rd Least Tax Burden Country in the world.

We have an open market and trade policy that is one of the most liberal in the world.

Apart from FTAs with the EU and China, Georgia enjoys free trade regimes with Turkey, CIS, EFTA, as well as Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) with United States, Canada and Japan. Also, we are starting FTA negotiations with India and have almost finalized the joint feasibility study on a Georgia-Israel FTA.

The existing network of FTAs gives businesses operating in Georgia free access to a 2.3 billion consumer market.

In addition to its strong trade network, Georgia is investing in the development of infrastructure, transport and logistics to enhance connectivity.

Our plan is to transform Georgia into a regional transport and logistics hub.

Georgia's overall progress in creating an investment-friendly environment is effectively translated in Foreign Direct Investment. In the last 5 years, total FDI inflow into the Georgian economy amounted to more than 8 billion dollars.

Moreover, Georgia's progress is positively reflected in various international rankings and assessments.

According to "Doing Business" by the World Bank, Georgia is 6th in the world in terms of ease of doing business.

According to the Heritage Foundation's "Index of Economic Freedom, Georgia ranks 16th among 180 countries.

In addition, according to Transparency International "Corruption Perception Index", Georgia holds the 41st position, way ahead of its regional peers.

The stable macroeconomic environment and implementation of structural economic reforms are reflected in improved international credit ratings in recent years.

I hope this helps, put in context Georgia's economic vision and attractiveness for investment. That is why the realization of investment potential of the New Silk Road is vitally important for every participant country, including Georgia.

From the beginning, travelers on the Silk Road were entering - and imagining - new worlds. I am confident that this Forum will encourage you to think about this region in a new way.

I wish you a successful conference!