Statement of the United States by Deputy Chief of Mission Christopher S. Wilson at the WTO Trade Policy Review of Georgia
January 19, 2016
Thank you, Chair. I would like to join others in welcoming Deputy Minister Arveladze and his distinguished delegation from Tbilisi to Geneva for Georgia’s second Trade Policy Review. In addition, I would like to thank the Government of Georgia and the Secretariat for their work in preparing us for this review.
Georgia’s economy faces many external and internal challenges including geopolitical pressures in its region. The United States is proud to support Georgia’s efforts to overcome such challenges. The United States and Georgia enjoy a close friendship and partnership across a range of issues based on shared values and principles.
Despite the geographical distance between our two countries, I am pleased to say that trade between the United States and Georgia has steadily increased since 2004. Bilateral two-way goods trade between the U.S. and Georgia rose steadily from just over $300 million in 2004 to $1.0 billion in 2014, covering products such as vehicles, machinery, chemicals, mineral fuel oil, iron and steel, fertilizers, poultry, and beverages.
The United States continues to support Georgia’s economic revitalization, and our governments continue to explore various means of further enhancing our trade relations. Our governments also regularly consult with each other on issues of mutual importance and recognize the value of continued cooperation on a range of issues. We, therefore, appreciate our ongoing cooperation with Georgia in all fora, including in the WTO.
As we have heard this morning, changes to Georgia’s trade and investment regime have also been driven by its desire to join the European Union. The United States supports Georgia’s pro-EU integration agenda. We believe that the implementation of the commitments in the EU Association Agreement, including provisions of the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement applied consistently with WTO rules, will improve Georgia’s overall trade and investment environment. We support Georgia’s efforts to negotiate agreements with a range of trading partners that reinforce our WTO obligations.
We were extremely pleased to welcome Georgia’s submission of its letter of acceptance of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement earlier this month, and we commend Georgia for undertaking the steps necessary to ratify this important agreement.
Many of the questions we pose today reflect our desire to encourage Georgia to move forward expeditiously on important WTO initiatives and commitments, including continuing its accession to the WTO Agreement on Government Procurement.
While Georgia has ably demonstrated its commitment to open trade, some concerns remain, and our written questions submitted in the context of this TPR address some of those concerns. We note, for example, that in the area of food safety, the Secretariat’s Report states that “[t]he authorities stated that Georgia has gradually developed its national regulatory system in line with the EU and international standards.” The United States is concerned, however, that Georgia’s adoption of EU standards and practices may not be science-based and could disrupt trade in U.S. products such as poultry, pork, and beef, as well as trade in the products of agricultural biotechlogy.
We are interested in further discussion on how Georgia will ensure that its regulatory system is science-based and is implemented according to its WTO obligations under the SPS Agreement. We note that the SPS Agreement calls on WTO Members to base their measures on international standards and science. In the case of food safety, the Agreement cites those international standards contained in the Codex Alimentarius or, if a Member elects a higher level of protection, that the Member base the measures on a risk assessment.
We would also be interested in further discussion on the status of the various SPS regulations in food safety, and veterinary and plant protection that were implemented in 2015, including whether these regulations have been notified to the WTO.
The United States has consistently advocated for strong intellectual property protection as critical to creating a business-friendly economy. Georgia has made several efforts to improve IPR through new legislation, public education, and enforcement. Anticipated additional efforts, including implementation of the terms of the DCFTA with the EU, will strengthen its regime for protecting and enforcing IPR. We submitted detailed written questions regarding IPR protection and look forward to further discussion of the issues raised, including the status of the Law on Copyrights and Neighboring Rights, the system for voluntary depositions for protected subject matters of copyright, the data protection period in Georgia, Georgia’s plans to amend IPR laws to align with provisions of the DCFTA, and the status of ex officio powers.
In closing, Chair, I want to emphasize that Georgia is a valued partner of the United States, and we congratulate Georgia for its commitment to pursuing an open trade and investment regime. We are convinced that its continued move toward integration with the EU, and continued adherence to the rules and principles of the WTO, will bring Georgia a brighter future. We hope that this discussion today will encourage Georgia’s continuation of those policies and we look forward to continuing our work with Georgia to achieve these goals.
We wish Georgia a successful review and we thank the delegation for its attention to our questions. Thank you.