Armenia and Georgia will hold trade negotiations next month to iron out possible contradictions between their new commitments to a Russian-led bloc and the European Union respectively, a senior Georgian diplomat said on Monday.
Tengiz Sharmanashvili, the Georgian ambassador in Yerevan, pointed to Armenia’s accession to the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) and the recent entry into force of Georgia’s Association Agreement with the EU envisaging a “deep and comprehensive free trade area.”
“There are some details that need to be clarified,” Sharmanashvili told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “Georgia’s economy minister [Giorgi Kvirikashvili] will arrive in Yerevan on November 11-12 so that we review all those issues.”
“We need to go through the two treaties, compare your and our obligations, and if there are some commitments that contradict each other we should look for concrete solutions,” he said. “I don’t think that there will be many such issues. I even presume that there will be no insurmountable issues.”
Membership in the EEU requires Armenia to adopt considerably higher duties collected by its member states from imported goods. This may run counter to free-trade arrangements existing between Armenia and Georgia.
The accession treaty which President Serzh Sarkisian signed on October 10 with his counterparts from Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan lists more than 800 imported goods that will be exempt from the EEU tariffs for the next few years. The Armenian government will have to start phasing out Armenia’s traditionally liberal trade regime in 2018.
The authorities in Tbilisi and Yerevan may also need to agree on new customs procedures for the transit through Georgian territory of Armenian goods exported to Russia and the other EEU member states.
Sharmanashvili was confident that the upcoming Georgian-Armenian talks will not require any coordination with the Russian government or the EU’s executive body, the European Commission. “We are not going to talk to Moscow regarding Armenia,” he said. “We are going to talk to Yerevan. Our bilateral relations are our bilateral relations. But if somebody wants to clarify something with their ally, they will be free to do so.”
The issue was apparently on the agenda of Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili’s visit to Yerevan in August. Gharibashvili and his Armenian counterpart Hovik Abrahamian said that Armenia’s imminent membership in the EEU will not damage bilateral commercial ties. The two sides also announced agreements to expand cross-border communication and mutual electricity supplies in the coming years.