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Georgia: Market Profile

Graph: Georgia factsheet
Graph: Georgia factsheet

1. Overview

Over the past decade, Georgia's economy has grown at an average annual rate of 5%. This was in spite of numerous shocks – including the global financial crisis of 2007-2008, and the regional geopolitical and economic headwinds in recent years. Georgia has earned a reputation as a star reformer by implementing overhauls in economic management and governance. The state has also introduced rules and regulations which make it easier to do business. This has significantly bolstered the private sector, and the country's international ratings on governance and the investment climate have soared. As a strategically located logistics and transhipment corridor to Caucasus and Central Asia, the Georgian logistics sector is a key bright spot that is highly transit-oriented; around 60% of all types of overland international freight throughput are in transit. Georgia’s economic growth in the coming decade will be higher than the last, owing to an already favourable business environment which is set to improve further as the government continues to press forward with continued reforms, economic diversification and boosting its domestic savings rate.

Sources: World Bank, Fitch Solutions

2. Major Economic/Political Events and Upcoming Elections

June 2014
The European Union (EU) and Georgia signed an association agreement.

July 2014
Municipal elections produced a clean sweep for the governing Georgian Dream coalition.

May 2015
Former President Mikheil Saakashvili was appointed governor of Ukraine's Odessa Region.

December 2015
Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili resigned and was replaced with his foreign minister, Giorgi Kvirikashvili.

October 2016
The governing Georgian Dream coalition won parliamentary elections.

June 2018
Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili resigned. Mamuka Bakhtadze was appointed as the new prime minister.

December 2018
Salome Zurabishvili won the presidential election on the back of campaign promised to join the EU and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

Sources: BBC country profile - Timeline, Fitch Solutions

3. Major Economic Indicators

Graph: Georgia real GDP and inflation
Graph: Georgia real GDP and inflation
Graph: Georgia GDP by sector (2017)
Graph: Georgia GDP by sector (2017)
Graph: Georgia unemployment rate
Graph: Georgia unemployment rate
Graph: Georgia current account balance
Graph: Georgia current account balance

e = estimate, f = forecast
Sources: IMF, World Bank, Fitch Solutions
Date last reviewed: June 13, 2019

4. External Trade

4.1 Merchandise Trade

Graph: Georgia merchandise trade
Graph: Georgia merchandise trade

Source: WTO
Date last reviewed: June 13, 2019

Graph: Georgia major export commodities (2018)
Graph: Georgia major export commodities (2018)
Graph: Georgia major export markets (2018)
Graph: Georgia major export markets (2018)
Graph: Georgia major import commodities (2018)
Graph: Georgia major import commodities (2018)
Graph: Georgia major import markets (2018)
Graph: Georgia major import markets (2018)

Sources: Trade Map, Fitch Solutions
Date last reviewed: June 13, 2019

4.2 Trade in Services

Graph: Georgia trade in services
Graph: Georgia trade in services

Source: WTO
Date last reviewed: June 13, 2019

5. Trade Policies

  • Georgia has been a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) since June 14, 2000.

  • Georgia has enacted a range of economic reforms since achieving independence, which have seen Georgia conclude a wide range of free trade agreements (FTAs) with globally important players such as the EU, Turkey and (most recently) China. Thanks to its liberal trade regime, Georgia has signed FTAs with many of its neighbours such as Ukraine, Belarus, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Russia, Moldova, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Turkey. In addition, it has concluded a Deep and Comprehensive FTA with the EU.

  • Georgia enjoys lower tariffs on 3,400 goods exported to the United States, Norway, Switzerland, Canada and Japan under the Generalised Schemes of Preference (GSP).

  • The country has also introduced customs clearance zones which have significantly streamlined border clearance times to the bare minimum, and imposed very minimal tariff and non-tariff barriers to international trade. Such reforms are helping the country's tourism and transport services sectors take off, especially as its strategic geographical location means that Georgia is set to become a key transit point for East-West trade under China's new Silk Road overland route.

  • Georgia is not a member of any customs unions or single or common market areas (which usually provide for the free movement of the various factors of production). As a former Soviet state, the country was a member of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). However, Georgia has not joined the CIS FTA nor the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU). Although Georgia withdrew its membership in 2008, the CIS bloc has traditionally been the primary trading region for Georgia, largely part because of geographic proximity. Therefore, Georgia has separate free trade regimes with countries in the CIS.

  • The United States and Georgia established a High-Level Dialogue on Trade and Investment in 2012, a bilateral dialogue aimed at identifying measures to increase bilateral trade and investment. The United States and Georgia have shared a bilateral investment treaty since 1997, and Georgia can export many of its products duty-free to the United States under the GSP.

  • There are a series of import tariffs that are applied on some agricultural products, which affect all trade-partner countries, unless specifically excluded in an FTA.

  • In comparison with the EAEU single market bloc, penetrating the Georgian market as an outsider is far easier, since tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade with Georgia are minimal. Nearly 90% of all goods imported to Georgia are duty free, and the country has the second lowest average applied import tariff rate (0.7%) out of all eight Caucasus and Central Asian states.

  • Georgia has the lowest time and cost burdens for both export and import procedures (for border and documentary compliance) out of all eight Caucasus and Central Asian states. There are no tariffs imposed on exports from the country as well as for no tariffs on goods imported for transit or re-export purposes. The introduction of customs clearance zones has significantly streamlined border clearance times to the bare minimum and the implementation of an integrated border management system has reduced the number of intervening agencies to only one point of contact between transporters and customs officials.

Sources: WTO - Trade Policy Review, Fitch Solutions

6. Trade Agreement

6.1 Multinational Trade Agreements


  1. Georgia-EU Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA): The EU and Georgia signed an association agreement on June 27, 2014 which entered into force on July 1, 2016. The agreement introduces a preferential trade regime. This regime increases market access between the EU and Georgia based on having better-matched regulations. The FTA with the EU provides a significant and wealthy export market for Georgia's manufacturing industries. The EU is Georgia's main trade partner, accounting for approximately 29% of total trade. The DCFTA allows for closer economic integration of Georgia with the EU based on reforms in trade-related areas. Based on the principles of the WTO, the DCFTA removes all import duties on goods and provides for broad mutual access to trade in services. It will allow EU and Georgian companies to set up a subsidiary or a branch office on a non-discriminatory basis, allowing the foreign company to benefit from the same treatment as domestic companies in the partner's market. The DCFTA allows Georgian trade-related laws to generally match selected pieces of the EU legal framework. Georgia's adoption of EU approaches to policymaking will improve governance, strengthen the rule of law and provide more economic opportunities by expanding the EU market to Georgian goods and services. It will also attract foreign investment to Georgia.

  2. Georgia-Turkey FTA: The agreement came into effect in January 2008. Turkey is one of Georgia's largest exporting and importing partners. In February 2018 it was announced that Georgia and Turkey were taking action to widen the existing FTA between them and enable Georgian producers to increase export volume to Turkey by as much as 20%.

  3. Georgia-China FTA: As of January 1, 2018, the FTA concluded between Georgia and China came into operation. It allows over 90% of Georgian products duty-free access to the Chinese market and will boost Georgia's profile as a new Silk Road transit hub for East-West trade. China is one of Georgia's top five exporting and importing partners and its market dominance is likely to increase over the medium term now that the FTA is officially in operation.

  4. Georgia-Hong Kong FTA: An FTA between Georgia and Hong Kong was signed on June 28, 2018. Georgia will eliminate import tariffs on 96.6% of its tariff lines for Hong Kong products. The FTA was negotiated in 2016 and has several standard components, namely the elimination or reduction of tariffs, the liberalisation of non-tariff barriers, flexibility regarding rules of origin to facilitate bilateral trade, customs facilitation procedures, liberalisation and promotion and protection of investment, liberalisation of trade in services and a dispute settlement mechanism for the FTA. The agreement was drafted based on the FTA between Georgia and mainland China.

Sources: WTO Regional Trade Agreements database, government websites, Fitch Solutions

7. Investment Policy

7.1 Foreign Direct Investment

Graph: Georgia FDI stock
Graph: Georgia FDI stock
Graph: Georgia FDI flow
Graph: Georgia FDI flow

Source: UNCTAD
Date last reviewed: June 13, 2019

7.2 Foreign Direct Investment Policy

  1. 'Invest in Georgia', the Georgian national investment agency, sits under the direct supervision of the prime minister and is the only official state agency responsible for promoting and facilitating foreign direct investment (FDI) in Georgia. Invest in Georgia acts as a moderator between foreign investors and the government.

  2. To encourage foreign investment in tourism, industry and agriculture, the Georgian government has two free tourism zones (Anaklia and Kobuleti), two free industrial zones (FIZs) in Poti (sea port) and Kutaisi (the second largest city) and two new projects managed by the Agriculture Projects Management Agency to support agriculture development in Georgia. Under these schemes, the Government of Georgia offers interested investors unprecedented terms with respect to taxation and land use.

  3. Georgia has bilateral agreements on investment promotion and mutual protection with 32 countries, including: the United States, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bulgaria, China, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iran, Israel, Italy, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Kuwait, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxemburg, Moldova, the Netherlands, Romania, Sweden, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, the United Kingdom and Ukraine. Negotiations are underway with the governments of 24 countries, including Bangladesh, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Jordan, Korea, Lebanon, Malta, Norway, the Philippines, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, Syria, Tajikistan and Qatar. Additionally, in 2007, Georgia signed a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) with the United States.

  4. The Georgian government has opened most economic activities to foreign involvement. Successive governments have maintained a welcoming stance to foreign investors and a business-friendly policy programme, which is not likely to change given the country's commitment to an open and inclusive economy, as outlined in the national development plan, Georgia 2020. There is a clear promotion strategy in place for FDI and investors may benefit from incentives offered for businesses located in FIZs.

  5. Georgia has developed a wide body of legislation guaranteeing equal rights and protections for both domestic and foreign investors, ensuring that expropriations are infrequent and must be adequately compensated. The Law on Promotion and Guarantee of Investment Activity also stipulates that foreign investors are protected from legislative changes which would adversely affect their investment for a period of 10 years. There are few regulatory restrictions placed on foreign involvement, and 100% foreign ownership is permitted in almost all sectors. Government policy is investor-friendly and economic reforms have included changes to the regulatory environment and tax system which have cut through red tape and reduced the fiscal burden on businesses, thereby boosting the country's appeal to foreign investors.

  6. Investment may be screened in the pharmaceuticals, weapons production, exploitation of natural resources, financial activities and telecommunications sectors, but licences for new businesses in these industries must be issued within a month. No screening or licensing requirements are in place for foreign investment in all other areas of economic activity.

  7. As a logistics and transhipment corridor to the Caucasus and Central Asia, the Georgian economy is highly transit-oriented: around 60% of all types of overland international freight throughput are in transit. Aside from infrastructure upgrades at major seaports such as Batumi and Poti, and the construction of a deep-sea port at Anaklia to accommodate larger vessels, several planned projects are poised to strengthen the country's logistical importance.

  8. The main industries of interest to foreign investors in Georgia include agriculture, manufacturing, tourism, logistics and other services. The government has prioritised these sectors as targets for FDI through a clear and informative investment promotion strategy via the Georgia National Investment Agency. The Invest in Georgia website provides prospective investors with information about the targeted sectors and aims to encourage and support new projects.

  9. A limited incentive programme is in place for investment in agriculture and food processing projects in underdeveloped regions, whereby interest payments on loans funding such facilities are subsidised by the agriculture ministry, which may also provide a grant of up to 40% for investments under USD1 million.

  10. As part of the wider economic reforms, the Georgian government initiated a privatisation programme which has allowed the state to divest the majority of its economic assets. The only sectors in which the state is required to maintain a controlling interest are air, shipping and rail traffic control, defence, and nuclear energy. Most of the large state-owned entities have now been privatised and, although the government retains a presence in oil and gas, electricity and railways, only its role in the latter (through Georgian Railways) remains significant.

  11. There are currently several restrictions regarding foreign ownership of agricultural land in Georgia, but foreigners can own non-agricultural land in Georgia without restriction. In June 2017, the Georgian parliament announced a temporary ban on agricultural land sales to foreigners. A ban on foreign ownership of land was later enshrined in the Georgian constitution in September 2017. The new laws stipulate that foreign nationals and legal entities owned by foreign nationals (such as banks), cannot own agricultural land in Georgia unless certain special circumstances permit it. These include if a foreign national inherits agricultural land from a Georgian citizen, co-owns the land with a Georgian spouse or member of a Georgian household or becomes a permanent Georgian resident. While this ban does not apply to sales which were entered into before the amended laws, foreigners who own agricultural land are supposed to sell it within six months of this law becoming operational or it may be confiscated by the Georgian government.

Sources: WTO - Trade Policy Review, ITA, US Department of Commerce, government websites, Fitch Solutions

7.3 Free Trade Zones and Investment Incentives

Free Trade Zone/Incentive ProgrammeMain Incentives Available
Georgia currently has four FIZs which are operated by private businesses. These are the Poti FIZ, the Kutaisi FIZ I, the Kutaisi FIZ II, and the Tbilisi FIZ- Businesses registered in FIZs benefit from certain tax exemptions.

- If a company produces goods for export in an FIZ, it is exempt from all taxes except personal income tax (20%), which is paid from employees’ salaries.

- If a company imports products from an FIZ to other Georgia-owned territory, it is also exempt from most taxes, except personal income tax, VAT and a 4% tax on revenue from national sales.
Port of Anaklia FIZ (currently under development)- A planned six square kilometres, tax-free industrial zone, which will be located adjacent to the port facilities and is expected to come online by the end of 2020.

- The project is being developed by Hong Kong-based Kerry Logistics.

- The FIZ is being envisaged as a state-of-the-art trade, business and logistics platform, which will aid east-west supply chains.

- Planned incentives include fiscal incentives, special statuses for trading, manufacturing incentives, a special legal regime and international dispute resolution mechanisms.

- In September 2018, the Anaklian Development Consortium signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Asian Development Bank for assistance with developing the Anaklia FIZ and turning the FIZ and port in to an international business and logistics hub.
Corporate Income Tax (CIT) exemptions- Income derived from budgetary, international, and charitable organisations – but not including income or profit derived from normal operations and commercial activity.

- Profit gained from services carried out by international financial companies.

- Capital gains on securities if said securities were issued by an international finance company.

Source: Fitch Solutions

8. Taxation – 2019

  • Value Added Tax: 18%
  • Corporate Income Tax: 15%

Source: Revenue Service of the Ministry of Finance, Georgia

8.1 Important Updates to Taxation Information

  • In 2016, the Georgian government announced that it would adopt measures which aim to align the tax regime with the Estonian model of taxation. This model allows for all businesses (except profit sharing ventures) to be exempt from taxation and will, therefore, decrease the taxation burden for companies in Georgia. This came into effect from January 1, 2017, and effectively means that all businesses (except commercial banks, credit unions, insurance companies, microfinance organisations and pawn shops) will be effected by this new corporate tax regime from January 1, 2019.

  • Companies are only taxed on their distributed profits (eg, in the form of dividends to shareholders) and not on their retained earnings. This is not necessarily meant to reduce the tax burden for corporate entities, but rather to defer payment and make the calculation of corporate tax easier. Businesses pay a 15% flat corporate tax rate on transactions such as profit distribution, costs incurred not related to economic activity, free of charge distributions and over limit representative expenses.

8.2 Business Taxes

Type of TaxTax Rate and Base
Resident company: Corporate Tax- 15% flat corporate tax rate on distributed profits while undistributed profits are exempt from CIT
- This tax amendment is being phased in at different times for certain sectors
Property Tax1% on the annual average residual value of fixed assets (except for land)
Land Tax- Agricultural land tax varies according to the quality of land and administration unit
- The minimum tax rate per hectare of agricultural land ranges from GEL5 to GEL100
VAT18% on sale of all goods and services (standard)
Withholding TaxDividends: 5%
Interest: 5%; the rate goes up to 15% if the recipient is a nonresident registered in a low-tax jurisdiction
Royalties: 5% to nonresidents (and increases to 15% if recipient is registered ina low-tax jurisdiction); 20% for residents

Source: Revenue Service of the Ministry of Finance, Georgia
Date last reviewed: June 13, 2019

9. Foreign Worker Requirements

9.1 Localisation Requirements

The Georgian government does not enforce any localisation policies on businesses in terms of using domestic goods, labour or technology.

9.2 Foreign Worker Permits

Despite Georgia adopting a more stringent visa regime in 2014, it remains a fairly quick and low-cost process to obtain a foreign work visa in Georgia. Prior to 2014, people wanting to work in Georgia could enter and do so on a tourist visa. This has now been changed and anybody who wants to work in Georgia must apply for a long-term visa and eventually a resident's permit. The long-term visa is valid for 180 days. Resident permits take around 30 days to be issued.

9.3 Visa/Travel Restrictions

Various countries and groups enjoy visa-free access to Georgia and are usually permitted to stay (but not work) in the country for up to 360 days. Citizens of countries within the EU, the Commonwealth of Independent States, North Atlantic Trade Organisation, the Schengen area, the Gulf Co-operation Council, the United States and a wide range of others can enter Georgia visa-free.

Sources: Government websites, Fitch Solutions

10. Risks

10.1 Sovereign Credit Ratings

Rating (Outlook)Rating Date
Ba2 (Stable)11/09/2017
Standard & Poor'sBB- (Positive)22/11/2011
Fitch Ratings
BB (Stable)22/02/2019

Sources: Moody's, Standard & Poor's, Fitch Ratings

10.2 Competitiveness and Efficiency Indicators

World Ranking
Ease of Doing Business Index
Ease of Paying Taxes Index
Logistics Performance Index
Corruption Perception Index
IMD World CompetitivenessN/A

Sources: World Bank, IMD, Transparency International

10.3 Fitch Solutions Risk Indices

World Ranking
Economic Risk Index RankN/A114/202108/202
Short-Term Economic Risk Score45.647.146.7
Long-Term Economic Risk Score48.049.551.4
Political Risk Index RankN/A134/202119/202
Short-Term Political Risk Score56.556.560.0
Long-Term Political Risk Score54.954.957.9
Operational Risk Index RankN/A51/20152/201
Operational Risk Score62.661.661.8

Source: Fitch Solutions
Date last reviewed: June 13, 2019

10.4 Fitch Solutions Risk Summary

Georgian real GDP growth is expected to accelerate in 2019 and average close to 4.1%. Economic growth over the coming years will be driven by a favourable business environment helped by previous pro-market reforms, and continued efforts to reform and diversify the economy through increased trade and investment relationships are likely to have positive results. Although Georgia has managed to reorient its exports towards European markets in recent years, the Commonwealth of Independent States remains a significant export market, and many Georgians still work in Russia. Gross fixed capital formation will be a key driver of economic growth over the coming quarters, coming from large-scale investment projects that are financed either by the state or multilateral organisations. The greatest risk to the economy continues to stem from sources of political stability, notably elevated tensions with neighbouring Russia.

Georgia is the top performing state in the Caucasus and Central Asian region in terms of the comparatively lower operating risks which businesses will face. Its strengths are largely derived from its liberal trade and investment regimes, highly efficient bureaucratic system and low corruption levels, as well as its attractive labour market – benefitting from some of the best overall education in the region, as well as competitive labour costs. The state's logistics network presents a potential risk, largely given Georgia's reliance on natural gas and refined fuel imports and the current poor quality of its transport network by global standards. Transport risks are expected to abate over time, owing the significant international funding the state is receiving for transport infrastructure on account of its strategic position on China's new Silk Road route.

Source: Fitch Solutions
Date last reviewed: May 19, 2019

10.5 Fitch Solutions Political and Economic Risk Indicies

Graph: Georgia short term political risk index
Graph: Georgia short term political risk index
Graph: Georgia long term political risk index
Graph: Georgia long term political risk index
Graph: Georgia short term economic risk index
Graph: Georgia short term economic risk index
Graph: Georgia long term economic risk index
Graph: Georgia long term economic risk index

100 = Lowest risk; 0 = Highest risk
Source: Fitch Solutions Economic and Political Risk Indices
Date last reviewed: June 13, 2019

10.6 Fitch Solutions Operational Risk Index

Operational RiskLabour Market RiskTrade and Investment RiskLogistics RiskCrime and Security Risk
Georgia Score61.864.171.454.957.1
Caucasus and Central Asia Average50.4
Caucasus and Central Asia Position (out of 8)1
Emerging Europe Average57.655.959.158.656.8
Emerging Europe Position (out of 31)122
Global Average49.750.349.849.049.8
Global Position (out of 201)5223

100 = Lowest risk; 0 = Highest risk
Source: Fitch Solutions Operational Risk Index

Graph: Georgia vs global and regional averages
Graph: Georgia vs global and regional averages
Operational Risk Index
Labour Market Risk Index
Trade and Investment Risk IndexLogistics Risk IndexCrime and Security Risk Index
Regional Averages50.456.753.446.644.9
Emerging Markets Averages46.048.146.544.744.8
Global Markets Averages49.750.349.849.049.8

100 = Lowest risk; 0 = Highest risk
Source: Fitch Solutions Operational Risk Index
Date last reviewed: June 13, 2019

11. Hong Kong Connection

11.1 Hong Kong’s Trade with Georgia

Graph: Major export commodities to Georgia (2018)
Graph: Major export commodities to Georgia (2018)
Graph: Major import commodities from Georgia (2018)
Graph: Major import commodities from Georgia (2018)

Note: Graph shows the main Hong Kong exports to/imports from Georgia (by consignment)
Date last reviewed: June 13, 2019

Graph: Merchandise exports to Georgia
Graph: Merchandise exports to Georgia
Graph: Merchandise imports from Georgia
Graph: Merchandise imports from Georgia

Note: Graph shows Hong Kong exports to/imports from Georgia (by consignment)
Exchange Rate HK$/US$, average
7.75 (2014)
7.75 (2015)
7.76 (2016)
7.79 (2017)
7.83 (2018)
Sources: Hong Kong Trade Statistics, Hong Kong Census and Statistics Department
Date last reviewed: June 13, 2019

Growth rate (%)
Number of Georgian residents visiting Hong Kong452

Sources: Hong Kong Tourism Board, Fitch Solutions

Growth rate (%)
Number of European residents visiting Hong Kong1,929,824
Number of emerging Europe citizens residing in Hong Kong891.13

Sources: Hong Kong Tourism Board, United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs – Population Division, Fitch Solutions
Date last reviewed: June 13, 2019

11.2 Commercial Presence in Hong Kong

Growth rate (%)
Number of Georgian companies in Hong KongN/A
- Regional headquarters
- Regional offices
- Local offices

11.3 Treaties and Agreements between Hong Kong and Georgia

  • China-Georgia FTA came into force in January 2018.
  • China-Georgia bilateral investment treaty entered into force in March 1995.
  • Georgia has a double taxation agreement with China which came into force on November 10, 2005.

Sources: UNCTAD, Fitch Solutions

11.4 Visa Requirements for Hong Kong Residents

Hong Kong residents need a visa to travel to Georgia. They can apply for an e-visa. An e-visa is an easy way to get a permit to enter into and travel within Georgia for the purpose of a short stay. An e-visa is applied for online and emailed to the recipient.

Source: Georgia e-Visa Portal
Date last reviewed: June 13, 2019

Content provided by Picture: Fitch Solutions – BMI Research
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