Korea Times | 7 May 2017
Georgia to start FTA talks with Korea
By Rachel Lee
Working on a free trade agreement (FTA) with Korea is the No.1 task for Georgia’s newly appointed top envoy Otar Berdzenishvili.
The ambassador said at the embassy on May 2 that he believed Georgia had all the attributes to promote Korean businesses, with zero corruption and bureaucracy.
"We have fantastic projects running in the economic sphere but we need more," the diplomat said. "Georgia is now fulfilling negotiations with China and opening negotiations with India, and my major task as the new ambassador of Georgia is to work on an FTA with Korea, because without an FTA, business will not go forward."
This year will also see cultural events to mark the 25th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two nations.
Berdzenishvili said Georgia is well-known as a "cradle of wine" and the embassy will organize another wine tasting and other cultural events, including film, folk and beverage promotions.
He stressed the geopolitical importance of his country and its religious tolerance.
"Surrounding us is an interesting history," Berdzenishvili said. "But Georgia has still survived. We have our own language and alphabet. And we are still continuing to develop."
Since independence, Georgia’s major goal has been to become a member of the European family and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the ambassador said.
"This is the people’s choice, and every government has brought the dream closer and closer," he said.
Asked what similarities he has found between Korea and Georgia, the envoy pointed to the family-oriented culture and hospitality. He was also amazed to see similarities in culinary culture between the two nations _ many dishes are common.
Berdzenishvili served as Georgia’s ambassador to Brazil and non-resident ambassador to Peru, Colombia, Bolivia, Ecuador, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana and Representative to the Caribbean Community 2011-2016. He was also director at the Department of the Americas at Georgia’s ministry of foreign affairs 2009-2010.
Georgia has a history of more than 8,000 years and its fine wines have gained huge popularity around the world, including in Korea _ one of the country’s targeted markets _ China, Israel and Canada. And Georgia is an increasingly popular travel destination for Koreans.
According to the tourism office, Korean tourist numbers have risen over the past five years. In 2011, 1,419 tourists visited Georgia. Four years later, there were 3,340 travelers from Korea, a 13 percent increase on the previous year. For the first five months of this year, Georgia had 1,243 Korean visitors, a 9.1 percent rise on the same period last year.