The free trade agreement with the USA will bring real economic benefits for both countries. By the initiative of Georgian officials, feasibility studies were also prepared to estimate Georgia’s expected benefits from the free trade agreement. According to the research, the agreement will boost Georgia’s annual exports by 19% for the next 5 years. In addition, investment inflows from the USA will increase by 180 million USD. We also expect tourist inflows from the USA to hike. HUB Georgia has interviewed Giorgi Tsikolia, Deputy Ambassador of Georgia to the United States. Giorgi Tsikolia Deputy Ambassador. Embassy of Georgia to the United States of America When it comes to bilateral economic relations between the two countries, 2019 witnessed number of new initiatives and achievement that forged new connections among the private sector. The Georgian Embassy’s commercial diplomacy efforts focus on working with partners to assure increased flow of investments, technology and tourists from the United States to Georgia. We concentrate our efforts on building partnerships with private and public sector representatives across a wide array of sectors and states of the U.S., building awareness on Georgia and its potential available for American companies to tap into further. Hub Opportunity for Georgia The growth rate of the U.S. economy runs at historic levels, driving U.S. companies to constantly look outwards for expansion in other high-growth destinations. Despite the present challenges when it comes to global trade, world economies are still closely interlinked via supply and value chains across the globe. This reality provides Georgia a unique opportunity to become integral part of the trade routes connecting largest markets of Eurasia with its positive business environment, location, and business-friendly regulatory environment. Thankfully, we are witnessing a growing understanding of all that Georgia has to offer. Among American companies with recent investments made in Batumi is a Fortune 500 company “Trammo” out of state of NY, which develops a network of cargo terminals from Georgia to the Caspian aimed at delivering minerals to global markets. The total volume of investments in this project should exceed 25 mln USD. In parallel, a 120 mln investment is underway in Poti for another large-scale cargo terminal development, undergone by a joint Georgian-US company “PACE” with substantial financing from the US Overseas Private Investment Corporation. Those two developments are a part of a growing trend taking place in minds of U.S. corporate leadership. This is supported by Congress and the current Administration’s clear recognition of strategic importance of Georgia as a gateway for the U.S. geopolitical and economic interests in the wider region. Georgia Support Act I want to underscore the importance of the strong bipartisan support Georgia receives from the U.S. Congress. 2019 witnessed a historic vote in the House of Representatives passing a “Georgia Support Act”, the first of its kind legislative initiative aimed at bringing our bilateral relations to the next level. The Embassy worked tirelessly together with colleagues across different branches of our government to make this initiative a reality. The bill among other things specifically discusses the possibility of the Free Trade Agreement between the U.S. and Georgia and calls on the United States Trade Representative to start a negotiating process. Once passed by Senate, this bill will be the strongest tool we possess for turning our bilateral trade agreement into the reality. Greater trade with the U.S. means more jobs and economic opportunity for the Georgian people. In addition to the Georgia Support Act, Congress has appropriated a record amount of support for Georgia’s economic development in 2020 with an allocation in excess of 90 mln USD. This provides additional evidence of the close partnership and understanding that exist between the Embassy and our Congressional colleagues. Congressional and Administration Outreach In 2019, we witnessed the first active TV advertisement campaign across different U.S. states aimed at promoting Georgia. More than 40 mln people during the 6-month period watched on main U.S. channels such as FOX and CNBC a 30-second ad presenting our country and its advantages. The main campaign slogan “Georgia – Good for business, Good for America” received positive reviews driving a level of knowledge of Georgia among different segments of the U.S. business community. In parallel to the TV advertisement, as part of the campaign, the Embassy, in partnership with the leading U.S. PR company “Hill & Knowlton”, created a new topic specific news bulletins delivered to the targeted audience, redesigned our website making it more user and business friendly, and launched another portal “Businesses for Georgia” to provide business related information on the legal framework, investment opportunities and support tools available in Georgia to the U.S. investors and business-minded people. This portal will be managed by Washington DC based America-Georgia Business Council with the support of the Embassy. This campaign was executed by the Embassy in close partnership with the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia. Investment Road Show Last but not the least, I would like to highlight the success of the Investment Road Show held in different U.S. states in June of 2019. Around the Road Show was signed a memorandum of understanding with the Department of Commerce on increased efforts to deepen bilateral economic relations, with a focus on trade, establishment of direct flights and consideration of a Georgia-based office of the U.S. commercial representative. In addition, the meetings were held with the investment and venture funds, Fortune 500 companies such as Kimberly Clark, Facebook, SSA Marine and others in San Francisco, Seattle and Dallas. The road show has already yielded results, as two separate groups of investors have already visited Georgia as a follow up to the discussions initiated during the Road Show. Initiatives vary from the creation of a Georgia designated small investment fund to the creation of the educational programs for entrepreneurs in conjunction with the leading minds from the Silicon Valley. To recap, approximately 200 mln USD investments, increased development assistance, constant awareness campaigns in forms of investment road shows, TV advertising campaigns, bringing closer the possibility of a bilateral Free Trade Agreement, and opening a dialogue on direct flights between the United States and Georgia will undoubtedly facilitate the generation of the new ideas for economic cooperation in 2020 and will bring the two countries even closer in our quest to create an expanded U.S. economic footprint in Georgia.