Question about the event
Ambassador Degnan: I’m very pleased to be here for the 25th annual American Georgian Business Council Annual Conference. It’s honoring the 30 years of diplomatic relations between Georgia and the United States. We have a lot to celebrate as we look back at all we have accomplished together. We are also very excited about what is to come and all the work that we’re doing now with Georgian businesses, with our Georgian partners, with the Georgian government to continue the good work and the progress that Georgia has seen over the last 20-30 years. The United States has contributed in a variety of ways to the progress in Georgia’s economic development, but also in trying to create opportunities, to create good jobs for Georgians, improve the healthcare system, modernize the education system, and help strengthen democratic institutions all to further the clear choice of the Georgian people for a Euro-Atlantic future.
In our view, a strong economy, strong democracy is the best way to bring Georgia the stability, the security, and the prosperity that the Georgian people have said they want over and over again, and that we believe the Georgian people deserve. So, we are very pleased to see the results of the collaboration and cooperation between American businesses and Georgian businesses over the last decades, resulting in real improvements in the quality of life for many Georgians. We don’t want to stop there, though. There’s more work to be done. There are more Georgians who deserve to have the opportunities that this progress brings. Our United States assistance is oriented to reaching Georgians who are in the rural areas or in smaller towns and villages to help them realize their good ideas, to help them get their businesses off the ground, to help create good jobs and opportunities for them as well. So, we look forward to the years to come and a continuation of the close partnership we’ve had with Georgia over the decades.
Question about direct flights and the free trade between Georgia and United States
Ambassador Degnan: I think anyone who has flown from the United States to Georgia knows how wonderful it would be to have a direct flight. It is something that’s been under discussion for some time. Before COVID, in particular, there was some progress, and I think the discussions are beginning again. The travel industry has been seriously affected by COVID. I’m not sure where that discussion is and what the economics of the issue are as we look at the travel industry after COVID. It certainly would be an important bridge between the United States and Georgia. I have often said that sometimes it’s hard to convince people in the US to come to Georgia for the first time because it seems so far away. But you never have trouble getting them to come back the second time after they’ve experienced Georgian hospitality. As for the free trade agreement, that’s an area that’s handled by the U.S. Trade Representative, not the State Department. I know that this is something that has been raised with them frequently, that they have looked at as another important bridge between the United States and Georgia. There was a feasibility study done back in 2018, so there’s interest in pursuing it. I think the main thing is how quickly could we move to this, given the other things that the US Trade Representative is working on at this time. We continue to suggest that it’s worth looking into because, again, we’re always looking for opportunities to build on the close partnership that Georgia and the United States have, and to expand the relationships that we’ve had, to bring more American businesses into Georgia, and more Georgian businesses into the United States. I think that’s good for both of our countries.