The Georgian Swiss Business Association (GSBA) continues to promote trade and economic relations between Georgia and Switzerland despite the challenges caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
President of the GSBA Nona Mamulashvili said that the outbreak of the coronavirus around the world is an extremely challenging time for “all of us personally”, for society and for businesses as well.
“Due to the current situation, many activities of the GSBA have had to be cancelled. However, we continue our activities virtually and are currently working on the possibility of the Georgian tourism sector participating in tourism and trade expos in Switzerland later this year”, said Mamulashvili.
The Swiss International Holiday Exhibition, also known as IViaggiatori, is the leading tourism fair in Lugano, Switzerland. It is dedicated to the world of travel, leisure and recreation.
“Leading to a perfect trip around the world, through places, peoples and cultures, the Swiss International Holiday Exhibition in Lugano is the ideal event for travellers and people working in the tourism industry. We are closely observing the global environment and will decide whether or not to participate accordingly”, Mamulashvili said.
Founded in December 2005, GSBA is a non-profit organization that promotes trade and economic relations between Georgia and Switzerland.
The GSBA views itself as a platform for the exchange of knowledge and experience between industrial, commercial and service enterprises in Georgia and Switzerland.
The activities of the GSBA target different objectives of its members. These objectives include the provision of a networking and knowledge-sharing platform, the exchange of social and cultural aspects, and the representation of members with the governments of Georgia and Switzerland.
The scope of events organized by the GSBA ranges from knowledge sharing to member presentations, from round tables with government officials to social and cultural events, building bridges between Georgia and Switzerland, on a professional as well as on a personal level.
We are now in the era of coronavirus, which has changed everything around us. How has the pandemic affected the Association’s activities, how has it changed your plans?
The COVID-19 outbreak has delivered an indiscriminate blow to businesses everywhere. Like many organizations and businesses in Georgia and globally, GSBA moved to a virtual work mode and will continue to do so until further instructions from state authorities.
Due to the current situation, many activities of the GSBA had to be cancelled. We will resume working on strengthening Georgian Swiss Economic activities once the situation stabilizes.
What kind of impact has the pandemic had on Georgia-Switzerland’s business relations?
Georgian and Swiss business relationships are good, and they stretch back as far as the 19th century when Swiss farmers settled in Georgia and brought the Swiss expertise of cheese-making to the region.
Switzerland and Georgia have a great deal in common – two small countries with robust mountain traditions and mentalities. Because of our strategic locations, we are both important transport and logistics hubs.
Today, around 35 Swiss companies operate in Georgia. They can rely on a solid set of conditions, with agreements on free trade, the promotion and protection of investment, and the protection of geographical indications.
How has the trade and economic relationship improved between Georgia and Switzerland recently and where does it stand as of today?
Switzerland and Georgia are developing their economic and trade relations and the trend is growing.
This year in Q1, bilateral trade increased by 33.1% in comparison with the same period in 2019, and there certainly is further growth potential.
Switzerland’s chief exports to Georgia are currently pharmaceutical products (52.5%), timepieces (19.2%), and optical and medical instruments (7%).
The country’s major imports from Georgia are textiles, clothing and gold materials. According to the National Statistics Office of Georgia, in the first quarter of 2020, Georgia exported around USD 17 million worth of gold unwrought or in semi-manufactured forms.
On the academic level, there is a growing interest in exchanges, as shown by recently concluded agreements between Swiss and Georgian universities.
Another sector that may bring us closer is tourism, in which Switzerland can share a lot in terms of human skills and sustainable infrastructure development.
In January 2019, the Swiss chocolate company Camille Bloch announced that it will invest in Georgia and cultivate hazelnut plantations to be used in Ragusa branded products. Details of the investment project were discussed at a meeting of Chief Executive Officer Daniel Bloch with the Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia in Davos earlier this year.
Camille Bloch had already incorporated a company in Georgia and found a 651-hectare plot of land in Lagodekhi municipality. It is worth noting that the company aims to cultivate hazelnuts by deploying a new technology to be followed with increased productivity, plant resistance and high yield.
The investor intends to employ about 40 people, who will be trained and other hazelnut growers will also acquire know-how from interactions with the company.