One year ago, Georgia signed an historic free-trade deal with the European Union that many saw as the ticket for finally pulling the country’s largely agricultural economy out of its post-Soviet slump. But so far, how fast that deal can help transform Georgian agriculture is open to doubt.
With about half of Georgia’s roughly 2-million-strong workforce employed in agriculture, the answer could have long-term consequences.
Though the EU ranks as the country’s top trade partner, accounting for 30 percent of total foreign trade of $3.9 billion, Georgian support for the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union appears to be growing – up twofold since 2014 to 30 percent of 4,360 Georgians surveyed for the National Democratic Institute, an American non-governmental organization.
The Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA), signed with the EU on June 27, 2014, does not prevent trade with Russia or its economic bloc. But, for some Georgians, the roughly 350 directives and regulations, mostly related to food safety, tied to all EU-bound exports makes Russia, its eastern neighbor, an easier bet.
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Monica Ellena is a Tbilisi-based freelance journalist.