A pending customs union involving Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan could open a way for Georgian food products to get around a Moscow-imposed trade embargo.
The union, approved by the Russian government on May 14 and scheduled to take effect on July 1, would remove all customs checkpoints among the three countries; any product that enters Belarus or Kazakhstan would, in theory, be able to circulate freely within the troika’s market. Details have not been made public about how the union would treat member-states’ existing import agreements.
Georgia has free trade regimes with Belarus and Kazakhstan, which means that Georgian products can enter those two countries without customs tariffs.
Belarus, along with Armenia and Azerbaijan, last year was identified as a chief conduit to Russia for Georgian wine, water, fruit jams and tea. Such products are banned from direct import into Russia under Moscow’s 2006 embargo. [For details, see the EurasiaNet archive].
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Nino Patsuria is a freelance reporter based in Tbilisi.