Members of EUGBC Working Group on DCFTA held a meeting at the EU Delegation in Georgia

On 9th of July 2012, members of EUGBC Working Group on DCFTA held a working meeting with Virginie COSSOUL, Trade Officer at the EU Delegation in Georgia.

 EUGBC Secretary General, Konstantin Zaldastanishvili opened the meeting and introduced the members of the Working Group to the representative of the EU Delegation. Konstantin Zaldastanishvili spoke about the importance of DCFTA for the growth and development of Georgia’s economy and trade with the EU. The Secretary General also stressed the vitality of involving business community in the negotiation process for the purpose of what EUGBC created DCFTA Working Group. He underlined that at the onset of the Working Group’s operation, meetings with the representatives of the EU and the Georgian Government is useful and informative. These meetings will help to identify and define the priority area and the action plan of the Working Group.

Konstantin Zaldastansihvili informed that the meeting of the Working Group members with Chief Negotiator on DCFTA from Georgia, Tamar Kovziridze is also foreseen in near future and underlined that the meetings of business community with the negotiating team from the EU during their visits in Georgia will be very important.

Virginie Cossoul stressed that the establishment of the business-driven Working Group on DCFTA is timely and important to support and further facilitate the EU-Georgia trade relations. She expressed hope that this initiative will provide a good platform to voice business interest vis-à-vis sector specific issue-areas negotiated by the Georgian and European authorities in the scope of the DCFTA.

Representative of Eu Delegation to Georgia informed the Working Group members on the current state of DCFTA negotiations. She highlighted that the negotiations on DCFTA are going in parallel with the negotiations on Association Agreement with Georgia and is its integral part.

Currently, fourteen chapters are being negotiated. These chapters are: Trade in Goods; Rules of origin; Customs and trade facilitation; Technical regulations on industrial products, standards and conformity assessment procedures; Sanitary and phytosanitary measures; Services, freedom of establishment and investment; Competition; IPR, including GIs; Public procurement; Trade and sustainable development; Transparency; Trade defense instruments; Dispute-settlement/mediation mechanism; and Institutional structures/provisional application. Two rounds of negotiations have already been held.

Overall, there is a good dynamic in discussion and the process is going smoothly. However, it was noted that this is a time consuming process. With respect to specific sectoral areas, it was pointed out that mostly there are no difficulties on trade in goods, liberalization policy in general, services, customs, and trade facilitation. More has to be done with respect to competition policy, but the parties are cooperating in this area and further progress is expected. Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT), Food Safety and Sanitary and Phytosanitary Standards (SPS) are considered relatively more sensitive areas. According to Virginie Cossoul, the EU side is closely monitoring the reforms in terms of actual enforcement of new laws and implementation in practice.

The members of the Working Group (David Lee, George Welton) stressed that it is important to advertise more and spread the message among wider business society on the possible benefits and costs of DCFTA. It will be very useful to issue a DCFTA newsletter, organize discussions and various events involving wider business community. This, the WG members stressed, will build confidence in businesses towards the required reforms. The WG members also discussed the impediment of the compliance cost towards the necessary reforms. It was also discussed that the cost of convergence to the EU standards shall be a concern not only of business but primarily of the Government as well as the EU. In addition, Kakha Kokhreidze highlighted the importance of involving most vulnerable segment of Georgian business – small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the process of negotiations.

At the end of the meeting, Virginie Cossoul informed the Working Group members that the third round of negotiations will take place in Tbilisi in the end of September 2012. Ms. Cossoul proposed to arrange a meeting of DCFTA WG and wider business community with the negotiating team from the EU during their visit in Georgia.