By Shakeh Avoyan
Armenia and Georgia pledged to boost bilateral trade and join forces in attracting badly needed foreign investment into their economies on Monday.
Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian and his visiting Georgian counterpart, Zurab Noghaideli, said they agreed to create a “common investment environment” that would make their small countries more attractive to large foreign investors.
“We are going to start working on presenting Armenia and Georgia as a single investment and trade entity to investors interested in working with us,” Noghaideli said after a meeting in Yerevan of the Georgian-Armenian inter-governmental commission on economic cooperation.
“Only together can we be of interest to big foreign firms,” said Sarkisian. He argued that the small size of Armenia’s and Georgia’s populations is a major factor discouraging foreign direct investment.
“Whereas several years ago we were talking about how to make sure our cargos go through Georgian territory without problems and unfettered electricity supplies [to Georgia,] we are now discussing issues that are more important to our peoples. One of those issues is the formation of a common market,” Sarkisian added at a joint news conference.
Neither premier would say how the two countries plan to harmonize their investment and other economic legislation. A separate statement issued by the Armenian government also gave no details, saying only that the idea was high on the agenda of the commission’s meeting.
The meeting also focused on ways of increasing the still modest volume of Georgian-Armenian trade. According to official Armenian statistics, it rose by 16 percent to $51 million in the first half of this year. The figure is equivalent to less than 3 percent of Armenia’s overall external trade during this period.
“Georgia mainly produces goods that are not produced in Armenia and vice versa,” he said. “We are not competitors and can complement deficiencies of our markets.”
Noghaideli agreed, singling out the chemical and food-processing industries. The government statement also cited him as stressing the need to boost the capacity of Georgia’s railway network that processes the bulk of cargos shipped to and from Armenia.
It was not clear if the two sides discussed the situation in Georgia’s restive Armenian-populated Javakheti region or the persisting Georgian-Russian tensions.