Georgian PM Gharibashvili sets course for strategic partnership with China.
In the framework of the visit of Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili to China, the two sides issued on July 31 a joint statement on establishing Strategic Partnership. According to the PM administration, the statement consists of four parts: political domain, economic domain, people-to-people relations and cultural domain, and international cooperation domain. The announcement came during the Georgian prime minister’s long official visit to China, which he himself described as “historic.”
As per the PM administration, in the political domain, the two sides reaffirm their respect for the sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity of all countries, and Georgia firmly adheres to the one-China principle.
As for the economic domain, the sides expressed readiness to increase bilateral trade further, optimise its structure and increase the export of Georgian goods and services to China. Georgia welcomes China’s Belt and Road Initiative, the sides signing a Bilateral Cooperation Plan between the Government of the PRC and the Government of Georgia under the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative “to gain greater strengths and opportunities for cooperation” and promote sustainable development of both sides.”
The sides expressed readiness to “facilitate mutual investment and trade and promote cooperation in the areas of transportation, communications, infrastructure modernisation, development and strengthening of the Middle Corridor, digital technologies, manufacturing, upgrading and expansion of railway networks, agriculture and food safety, water resources, environment protection, fighting desertification, water desalination, conformity assessment, usage of Georgia’s transit infrastructure for smooth export of Chinese products to Western markets, the exchange of know-how and technology as well as human resource training.”
In the people-to-people and cultural domain, the sides agreed to actively conduct scientific and technological cooperation and renew the agreement on cooperation in the field of science and technology signed between the People’s Republic of China and Georgia in 1993. The sides also agreed to foster cultural collaboration, including tourism, health, youth, sports and cooperation among universities.
As for the cooperation in the international domain, the sides will “strengthen coordination and collaboration in regional and international affairs, jointly uphold true multilateralism, firmly uphold the UN-centered international system, the international order based on international law, and the basic norms governing international relations underpinned by the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, and promote the establishment of a new type of international relations.”
Irakli Kobakhidze, the head of the ruling Georgian Dream party, said establishing a strategic partnership with China was “one of the most important foreign policy achievements” of Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili. It is important to take advantage of all the resources that can be derived from this partnership [with China]. Naturally, all steps will be taken so that the strategic partnership is properly implemented”, Kobakhidze told reporters.
Yet, while acknowledging the need for better economic ties with Beijing, the Georgian government’s pro-Western critics have raised questions on what “strategic partnership” might mean in terms of the country’s foreign policy orientation. “China is a country with a huge economy, with which we certainly need economic cooperation, and it is important for us… Georgia has the great privilege of having a free trade agreement with both China and the European Union. Still, we must understand that some important issues arise when we talk about Strategic Partnership. The first is that this Strategic Partnership will inadvertently damage our relations with the existing strategic partners – the European Union and the United States, with whom we have strengthened our strategic relations through our Constitution,” said Mikheil Daushvili from the political group For Georgia.
Sergo Chikhladze from Strategi Aghmashenebeli also believes that talking about strategic partnership is “premature”. “So far, we have a Strategic Partnership with the United States. Parliament has not given the government the approval for a Strategic Partnership with China. The government must take into account the opinion of the Parliament and fulfil the request of the Parliament. Of course, we should have a good attitude, a partnership attitude, but the strategic partnership implies a different level, and it needs an agreement with the parliament”.
China, which signed a free trade agreement with Georgia in 2017, has long been active in the region, including through large infrastructure projects. Beijing has also long shown interest in the Middle Corridor as part of its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Currently, China is Georgia’s fourth-largest trading partner, and Georgian exports to China have seen solid growth over the past four years.
GABRITCHIDZE Nini, Eurasianet.org, “Strategic partnership between Georgia and China puzzles critics”, https://eurasianet.org/strategic-partnership-between-georgia-and-china-puzzles-critics
Civil.ge, “Georgia and China Issue Joint Statement on Strategic Partnership”, https://civil.ge/archives/553820
Civil.ge, “Politicians Assess Establishment of Strategic Partnership Between Georgia and China”, https://civil.ge/archives/554087
Agenda.ge, “Ruling party head: strategic partnership with China ‘one of PM’s most important foreign policy achievements’”