18 July, 2013
Unilateral cancelation of visa-free regime for Iranian citizens starting from July 1, 2013, is not supposed to have any serious negative impact on Georgian-Iranian economic ties.
Georgia’s unilateral decision to revoke visa-free travel rules for Iranian citizens will have negative impact on bilateral ties, Mansour Haqiqatpour, deputy chairman of Iranian Parliament’s foreign affairs and national security committee, is reported to say on July 7, 2013 by Iran’s Fars News Agency (FNA). He predicted the move of official Tbilisi would affect
Georgian-Iranian relations. Another Iranian MP Alaeddin Boroujerdi, who chairs Parliament’s foreign affairs and national security committee, also criticized Georgia, who does not respect its own signatures. However, Iranian ambassador to Georgia expects no slowdown in economic relations of two countries, radio Commersant informed on July 4, 2013.
Tbilisi put out the visa predicament to Iran after the Wall Street Journal published a critical story on June 20, 2013 that Iranian business is flourishing in Georgia eluding international sanctions and having investments in InvestBank as well as Fly Georgia air-company. WSJ story accentuated that Georgia, which recently elected a Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili who takes a less pro-American stance than the President of Georgia Mr. Saakashvili, seeks to forge an independent line. In response Georgia froze accounts to 150 Iranian companies on June 21 however names of the companies were not disclosed. Georgian economic analysts believe the WSJ story is rather an attempt to blackmail new Georgian authorities than any serious signal of alarm to the White House that Tbilisi is distracted from the right track of strategic partner to the US. Analysts see the ex-powers officials standing behind this black-mail scene. As a matter of fact the inflow of Iranian business in Georgia was boosted by ex-powers not the incumbent authorities [that took its office in past October] for Georgia and Iran signed an agreement on 45-day visa-free travel rules in November of 2010 that entered into effect by end of 2011. As a result the inflow of Iranian visitors to Georgia increased by more than 4-fold in 2012 compared to 2010 from 21.300 to 89.600. Trade between Georgia and Iran increased by around 69% from USD 70 million to USD 118.4 million while Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) from Iran faced almost 60% drop from slightly over USD 1 million to USD 404.700 within the similar period, official Georgian statistics informs. Meantime number of Iranian businesses exceeded roughly 150 companies. Georgian economic analysts think this bespeaks that Iranian investments flowed through offshore companies mainly in Georgia to avoid international sanctions imposed on Iranian capital turnover globe over. However, most probably the issue of entering Iranian capital in Georgia was agreed with the White House that, been interested to weaken Iran economically, latently encourages Iranian business to flow out of the country and Georgia with its ease to doing business climate was quite a venue to Iranian businessmen to swoop on.
“Actually there is pretty big turnover of Iranian business in Azerbaijan too but Georgian business-friendly climate enticed Iranian investors more and most probably this here visa predicament will not hamper to its future activity,” Irakli Lekvinadze, an economic analyst, told Georgian Journal. He sees no harm to the country if Iranian business will go ahead in Georgia. “As for money laundering and security issues let the due structures do their job and monitor this activity, otherwise any capital inflow in the country is welcome” Lekvinadze elaborated. “I hardly believe that the US was not in course of affairs all this time particularly when it comes to Iranian investments in big companies. Besides, no country world over including the US is secured from Iranian capital, it may hit any market through offshore companies set up in Russia or Arabian countries.”

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