Obama: Georgia free trade accord possible

Jan. 30, 2012 at 5:26 PM
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WASHINGTON, Jan. 30 (UPI) -- President Obama, meeting with Georgia President Mikheil Saakashvili in Washington, said a free trade agreement with the former Soviet republic is possible.

Obama told reporters Monday during a joint media opportunity with Saakashvili that the two agreed to "a high-level dialogue between our two countries about how we can continue to strengthen trade relations between our two countries, including the possibility of a free trade agreement."

Acknowledging a lot of work needed to be done, Obama said the two leaders "think it's a win-win for the United States and for Georgia as we continue to find opportunities for businesses to invest in Georgia, for us to be able to sell Georgia our goods and services, and Georgia to be able to sell theirs as well."

Saakashvili said the prospect of a U.S.-Georgia free trade agreement "because that's going to attract lots of additional activity to my country, and basically helping our nation-building process."

Obama also complimented the Georgian leader for his work in building a "sovereign and democratic country."

"And one of the first things that I did was express my appreciation for the institution-building that's been taking place … in Georgia; the importance of making sure that minorities are respected; the importance of a police and system of rule of law that is being observed," Obama said, noting these were the kinds of institution-building activities that would make a difference now and in the future.

Obama also pledged to strengthen the countries' defense cooperation and assured Saakashvili that the United States would support Georgia's aspirations to become a NATO member.

Saakashvili thanked Obama for the complimentary words about Georgia's reforms and for supporting the country's bid to join NATO.

"Obviously, the reform process is never over, but these reforms would not have happened without strong commitment and support and advice from your administration and from the United States and your people on the ground," Saakashvili said. "We deeply appreciate all this."

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