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Irakli Kobakhidze and Peter Roskam, June 27, 2018. Photo: facebook.com/KobakhidzeOfficial

Georgian Parliament Speaker, U.S. Lawmakers Discuss Free Trade Agreement

Georgian Parliament Chairman Irakli Kobakhidze, who is on a visit to the United States on June 26-28, met with American Congressmen and Senators, discussing among others the possibility of signing a free trade agreement between the two countries.

The Parliament Chairman, together with his counterparts from Lithuania, Moldova, Poland and Ukraine, met with House Speaker Paul Ryan (Rep.) yesterday, with the sides discussing issues of bilateral and multilateral cooperation, and the importance of the U.S. support to the five nations.

On June 27, Kobakhidze also met with Peter Roskam (Rep.) and David Price (Dem.), authors of a recent bipartisan letter urging the U.S. Trade Representative to “strongly consider initiating” bilateral free trade agreement negotiations with Georgia.

“In addition to the potential economic benefits of a trade agreement to American workers and businesses, deeper economic integration between our two economies would further enhance U.S. interests of continued peace, stability, and economic development of the region,” reads the letter, undersigned by a group of 28 legislators.

In his remarks after the meeting, Congressman Roskam emphasized that the free trade agreement would lead to increased economic exchange between Georgia and the U.S. and “stronger political and strategic alliance.”

During his visit, Kobakhidze also met with Senators Cory Gardner (Rep.) and Ron Johnson (Rep.), as well as Congressmen Ted Poe (Rep.) and Gerald Connoly (Dem.), who have recently introduced a bipartisan resolution, reasserting the U.S.’ support for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

The Georgian Parliament Speaker delivered a speech at an event organized by the American Foreign Policy Council (AFPC), where he reviewed the security and human rights situation in occupied Abkhazia and Tskhinvali Region, and also spoke of the common goals and  shared challenges of the five countries – Georgia, Lithuania, Moldova, Poland and Ukraine.

Today, Kobakhidze will participate in the event organized by the Atlantic Council together with his counterparts from Moldova, Andrian Candu, and Ukraine, Andriy Parubiy, and will also meet with Wess Mitchell, the Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs.

U.S.-Georgia Trade Concerns

The congressional letter on Georgia-U.S. trade agreement comes few days after Congressman Pete Sessions (Rep.) expressed concerns over the state of play in bilateral trade relations, claiming the Government of Georgia has been taking “a series of aggressive and discouraging actions towards American companies operating in Georgia.”

“Over the past year, I have received reports of increased mistreatment and harassment of American and European companies,” Sessions said, adding that there have also been “reports of favorable outreach to companies from Russia, Iran and China.” “Simply put, this is a warning signal that should be taken very seriously,” he stressed.

The Congressmen then called on the Georgian authorities “to reaffirm and demonstrate their commitment to the shared principles of a fair and democratic market economy,” and the “critically important transatlantic strategic partnership” between the two countries.

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