Free Trade for Georgia

georgia050709.jpgDemocratic Sen. John Kerry and Republican Congressman David Dreier have published a piece in the Washington Post arguing that one of the best ways for the United States to contribute to Georgia’s security would be a free trade agreement.  Although Tbilisi, both its government and its protesters in the streets, would like prefer to receive anti-aircraft weaponry, the country could sure use some good news after this week.

Geography cannot be denied; Georgia and Russia should eventually restore strong trade relations. Today’s standoff hurts both nations. Even two years before the conflict last summer, Russia severed transportation links and blockaded Georgian exports of mineral water, fruits, vegetables and wine. It would be a positive step if Russia removed these restrictions. It is notable that despite the rising tensions before last summer’s war, the Georgian government had accepted Russian investment in Georgia, even in its infrastructure, an area in which other countries are often reluctant to allow even their friendliest neighbors to invest. Russian and Western investment should ultimately co-exist in the healthy atmosphere of a democratic Georgia whose sovereignty is respected.

Photo: Riot police wearing heavy gear surround Interior Ministry in Tbilisi,Georgia late Wednesday, May 6, 2009. Police armed with truncheonsclashed with protesters Wednesday in the first major outbreak ofviolence in a month of demonstrations against President MikhailSaakashvili. Dozens were injured. (AP Photo/Shakh Aivazov)