Armenia’s upcoming membership in the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) will not damage its relations with Georgia, Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili said on Thursday after talks with his visiting Armenian counterpart Hovik Abrahamian.
“We pointed out that Georgia and Armenia have close political and economic links, and the fact that Armenia will join the Eurasian Union in January and Georgia has signed an association agreement with the European Union will not affect our relations,” Gharibashvili told a joint news conference in Tbilisi. “We will on the contrary use that in the interests of our countries.”
“We are paying special attention to maintaining the existing trade regime between the two countries and further developing bilateral economic ties,” added the 32-year-old premier.
Membership in the EEU requires the Armenian government to adopt significantly higher duties that are collected by the bloc’s three member states -- Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan --- from goods imported from third countries. Many expected that this would lead to the abolition of Georgian-Armenian free trade arrangements, especially given Georgia’s recent entry into a “deep and comprehensive free trade area” with the European Union.
However, Armenian Deputy Foreign Minister Shavarsh Kocharian said late last month that Yerevan has succeeded in convincing the Russian-led bloc to let it maintain tariff-free trade with Georgia. Gharibashvili appeared to have confirmed this.
According to Armenian government statistics, the total volume of Georgian-Armenian trade rose by 2.3 percent to $126 million in the first ten months of this year.
Gharibashvili and Abrahamian on Thursday also reaffirmed their governments’ plans to build a new bridge at their main Armenian-Georgian border crossing. It is meant to facilitate cross-border commerce and travel.
The Bagratashen-Sadakhlo crossing currently has a single narrow bridge that was built over the Debed river in Soviet times.