Georgia turning away from the West? US legislators claim foul play against US business in Georgia
Senators Ted Cruz, John Cornyn, and congressmen Jodey Arrington and Markwayne Mullin have addressed an open letter to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and US Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin about the business environment and the government of Georgia.
The congressmen expressed concerned about the deterioration in the governance of Georgia, claiming Western businesses are being crowded out of the country, that Iranian businesses are active in Georgia and are bypassing sanctions, and that the informal ruler of Georgia, Bidzina Ivanishvili and the leader of the ruling Georgian Dream party may have ties to the Russian government.
The letter also states that foreign direct investment in the Georgian economy has almost halved over the past year. At the same time, taxes and bureaucratic obstacles to Western business increased significantly, the congressmen say.
The appeal pays special attention to the history of the American oil and gas exploration company Frontera Resources, the contract with which the Georgian side terminated by filing with the court of arbitration, which in turn found violations in the activities of the American company and considered the actions of the Georgian government to terminate the contract as legitimate.
The letter also touched upon the construction of the deep-sea port in Anaklia, in which the American company Conti Group was supposed to participate, but which, due to the revision of the project and its practical suspension, was withdrawn by the Georgian authorities.
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The letter says that the activities of these companies were based on geopolitical interests: the goal of Frontera Resources was to ensure energy independence and general stability in Georgia, and the goal of the port construction project in Anaklia was to reduce Georgia’s dependence on the infrastructure of Russian ports.
The authors of the appeal emphasize that for many years the Georgian business and financial system of Georgia were completely transparent and understandable to American officials, but now illegal trade is beginning to take the place of legal business.
The situation, in their opinion, is similar to 2013, when US authorities suddenly found out that three Iranian businessmen, bypassing sanctions, had established control over microcredit banks in Tbilisi.
Now, Tehran’s illegal activity has been detected in the oil sector in the port of Batumi.
The senators’ appeal also says that the chairman of the ruling Georgian Dream party Bidzina Ivanishvili maintains ties with the Russian government, which is documented.
Senators and congressmen consider it necessary to hold a briefing to find out whether:
● The Government of Georgia and the ruling party Georgian Dream are involved in the process of infringing on legitimate American business, which has invested heavily in the Georgian economy and its future.
● Any such actions are motivated by geopolitical considerations, including the ties of the leader of the Georgian Dream Bidzina Ivanishvili to the Russian government.
● Activities related to the Black Sea ports of Georgia pose a threat to US national interests, including:
pushing American companies out of port construction projects that could end Georgia’s dependence on Russia;
The actual easing of US sanctions against Iran, especially in the context of the activities of the mentioned ports of Georgia.
“The partnership between the United States and Georgia is necessary for the realization of American interests in the region, which in turn requires the return of Georgia to normal government. Geostrategic and business interests require a response from the US federal government, and we are ready to provide the resources that are needed to protect and strengthen US national interests,” the Senators and Congressmen said in the letter.