Issue 4, 2011. August-September

   

TRADING WITH AMERICA: THREE VIEWS

Better marketing and more organization can help Georgian companies break into the US market - and bring more US investors to Georgia, diplomats and business advocates believe.

Batu Kutelia: Database, Sector Specific Summits Needed to Bolster Trade

Georgian - and American - businesses need more information about market conditions and investment opportunities in each country, noted former Ambassador to the US Batu Kutelia.

Business trade summits and preferred trading programs are good for raising awareness but Georgian companies need more specific, market information to enter the US market, Kutelia said in an email interview with Investor.ge

"When it comes to the US market, Georgian businessmen encounter substantial challenges which impact significantly their desire to go for it," he said,.

"[E]ducation and training interchange" is needed to "increase interest and motivation for businesses to consider the US market," Kutelia said, adding that more promotion of Georgia's strengths is needed to attract "multinational companies" to Georgia.

"[W]e have signed a memorandum of understanding with EXIM bank, which underlines 7 key sectors of cooperation. Some projects are under negotiations and hopefully, they will end successfully because time has come to start utilizing these mechanisms," he noted.

Now the deputy head of the National Security Council of Georgia, Kutelia said stronger trade ties will lead to more investment opportunities for business in both countries.

"One success will lead to another and other companies will follow suit," he said.

Davit Rakviashvili: Platform Needed to Bring Trade Partners Together

More follow up with business is needed to capitalize on the Georgian government's efforts to attract investment and new trade partners, according to Deputy Ambassador to the United States Davit Rakviashvili.

"Government continues to make significant steps on the policy level...now is kind of the right time to capitalize on all of that," he said during a visit to Tbilisi in August.

Rakviashvili's vision is to create a trade mission or platform where a well informed staff can make the embassy's contacts with chambers of commerce and the business community more effective.

The idea was born from the gap between the government's efforts and the impact on the ground.

"When you try to analyze the situation, you see there is definitely a lack of the follow up on marketing," he said.

The exact shape of the new organization - which could be based in capitals around the world - is still under discussion. But the key, noted Rakviashvili, will be creating an effective platform to support potential trade and investment.

"If one manages to have the coherent policy and platform which can accommodate not only the government efforts but also the private sector and business association efforts, then it will be a synergy, you would have filled that gap," he said.

Mamuka Tsereteli: Interest in Georgia "Increasing"

Awareness about Georgia's potential for investment and trade is growing, noted Mamuka Tsereteli, the president of the America-Georgia Business Council.

Just two years ago, it was hard to attract participants to the council's bi-annual investment events. Today, however, he said there is an "increase in that interest currently, toward the country again, toward specific businesses here."

Part of that stems from a new confidence in Georgia's stability. But it is also a reflection of a global trend: private groups and hedge funds are shopping for better returns on investments in emerging markets.

To capture and sustain their interest, however, Tsereteli noted there is a need for well written, easy to understand proposals for specific industries and sectors.

There is also an absence of "positive stories" about investors who have turned a profit and left the market, examples of how investing in Georgia can be a money maker.

On October 25, AGBC is holding its annual conference in Georgia - an opportunity, Tsereteli noted, to turn interest into future business.

"There is a tremendous potential upside. The thing is to first let those opportunities be known to those potential investors. That is the purpose of our conference," he said.

"I think we need to make sure the positive stories of companies which exited Georgia with a profit are known... we need to publish the positive cases."