On 28 November 2017, in his speech at the Tbilisi Silk Road Forum, the Prime Minister of Georgia, Giorgi Kvirikashvili, stated: “We are the only country in this region which has free trade agreements with both the EU and China.”
FactCheck took interest in the accuracy of the statement.
Georgia has signed free trade agreements with the EU, four members (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland) of the European Free Trade Association, eight members (Azerbaijan, Armenia, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan) of the Commonwealth of Independent States and Turkey. Of these, the strategically important Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area agreement (DCFTA) was concluded with the EU in 2014. China signed a free trade agreement (FTA) with Georgia in May 2017. As a result of this agreement, Georgia became the 11thcountry which has concluded a free trade agreement with China.
The EU and China are among Georgia’s largest trading partners. According to the National Statistics Office of Georgia, the total trade turnover (the sum of export and import) with the EU and China amounted to USD 2.3 billion and USD 728 million, respectively, between January and October of this year. The EU is Georgia’s second largest trading partner after the CIS. China is Georgia’s third largest trading partner after Russia and Turkey.
Table 1: Georgia’s Trade Turnover in January-October 2017 (USD thousand)
|CIS Member Nations||911,450.5||1,872,416.9||2,783,867.4|
|EU Member Countries||531,057.0||1,793,171.4||2,324,228.4|
Source: National Statistics Office of Georgia
With the exception of Georgia and Turkey, the EU regulates its trade relations with other regional countries on the basis of Partnership and Cooperation Agreements adopted in 1999. These agreements facilitate the process of democratisation and transition to market economies. The EU had its economic relations with Turkey buttressed in a 1995 agreement, which is at a higher level as compared to Partnership and Cooperation Agreements, but does not envision a free trade agreement. After the annexation of Crimea, bilateral trade sanctions are already in play (FactCheck has already written about this topic).
Of the countries in Georgia’s region, it is the only one with a free trade agreement with China. Countries which have free trade agreements with China are located in the developed part of Western Europe or in the Far East and do not have a regional affiliation with Georgia.
No matter how Georgia’s region is defined, there are no other countries which have free trade agreements both with the EU and China simultaneously. Georgia’s neighbour countries do not have free trade agreements with either China or the EU. Central Asian and other European countries are not engaged with China in any form of economic relations.
FactCheck concludes that Giorgi Kvirikashvili’s statement is TRUE.
 It is important to have a precise definition of the region to which Georgia belongs. According to a narrower interpretation of the term, only the neighbour countries (Russia, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Turkey) are part of Georgia’s region. However, in light of Georgia’s Western aspirations, the World Bank’s regional division, where Georgia belongs to the group of European and Central Asian countries (this group includes 24 nations in total), is quite appropriate.