Georgia Eases Travel Restrictions for Citizens Heading East Amid Tension with the West

Credits: The Washington Post

Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze announced on February 26 that Georgia would allow visa-free travel for Chinese citizens for up to 30 days, aiming to strengthen ties and boost trade between the two countries. This move follows Georgia’s decision last fall to lift visa requirements for Chinese nationals visiting the country.

Economy Minister Levan Davitashvili highlighted the importance of this change, stating that many Georgian citizens travel to China for business but face challenges due to visa requirements. The visa-free regime is expected to simplify and facilitate business travel between the two countries.

China has been investing heavily in Georgia’s infrastructure as part of its efforts to develop the Middle Corridor trade route. Georgia is the only country in the Caucasus region with which China has a free trade agreement, making it an important partner for China’s trade ambitions.

Georgia Travel Restrictions (Credits: Al Jazeera)

While Georgia has traditionally looked towards NATO and the European Union for closer ties, recent years have seen a shift in its geopolitical stance.

The Georgian Dream government has embraced closer ties with China, signing a bilateral strategic partnership agreement in 2023. This visa-free travel arrangement is seen as a result of this strategic partnership.

Vakhtang Charaia, dean of the Business and Management School at Grigol Robakidze University, believes that while the impact of visa-free travel on trade is difficult to measure, it could lead to increased investment, tourism, and trade between Georgia and China.

Despite the higher profit margins for Georgian firms exporting to the EU, the new visa rules could reduce red tape and facilitate business dealings with China.

Overall, the visa-free travel arrangement is seen as a positive step towards strengthening ties between Georgia and China, with the potential to benefit both countries economically.

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