The best prospects for Georgia exports to the eastern Mediterranean include security-related products, gourmet foods and medical supplies, but Israel remains Georgia’s top trading partner in that region, according to Sherwin Pomerantz, director of the state’s office in Jerusalem.
Mr. Pomerantz, who recruits companies from the eastern Mediterranean to open operations in Georgia and assists Georgia companies to enter markets in that region, gave a special briefing on trade opportunities during an American-Israel Chamber of Commerce meeting last week at the offices of Powell Goldstein LLP.
“About 99 percent of Georgia’s foreign direct investment from the eastern Mediterranean comes from Israel. However, we know that the Arab countries are interested in American products,” he told GlobalAtlanta following his presentation.
Mr. Pomerantz said that the economies of Jordan, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates are opening to U.S. imports. Mistrust of Israel by its Arab neighbors may be a factor in doing business in the region, but the situation is improving and business goes on despite political differences, he said. Bahrain, in fact, which recently lifted its boycott on Israeli goods, may be a “jumping off point” from which Georgia companies could enter other Arab countries, he added.
“We believe that Georgia’s potential for business in Israel and the eastern Mediterranean is nowhere realized… Our job is to help people look past the barriers and just do business,” Mr. Pomerantz said.
Since the U.S. has had a free trade agreement with Israel for 20 years, trading with Israel is fairly straight-forward, he said. Security-related products have good potential in Israeli markets, as do computer hardware and medical equipment imports.
Non-prescription drugs are soon to be sold in grocery and convenience stores in Israel, as opposed to only at pharmacies, so this will open a new market for Georgia suppliers, according to Mr. Pomerantz.
Jordan also has a free trade pact with the U.S., which, like in Israel, places no limitations on foreign ownership of companies operating in Jordan. Georgia companies should be careful of regulations in other countries in the region, however, that may require exclusivity agreements that cannot be broken, Mr. Pomerantz said.
With or without free trade agreements in place, “qualified industrial zones” in these countries are good locations for foreign investment in manufacturing centers, he added.
Jordan has its own pharmaceuticals and phosphates industries, but it needs “just about everything else,” including development in the country’s telecommunications, highway and water supply infrastructure. Information technology is also a growing sector in Jordan, with King Abdullah’s initiative to compete with the UAE in software and hardware development.
In addition, Jordan is striving to become a healthcare hub in the Middle East, so the demand for medical equipment should increase over the next few years, according to Mr. Pomerantz. There is also a growing market for transportation equipment and parts, as well as farm machinery and environmental technologies such as water purification and waste disposal.
Turkey, another country under Mr. Pomerantz’s jurisdiction, has joined the European Customs Union and is a candidate for full European Union membership, so it is beginning to adopt EU standards for environmental regulation and agricultural and medical device importation.
As such, there is a market in Turkey for Georgia suppliers of gourmet foods, excluding wine, as well as refurbished and new medical equipment and supplies, Mr. Pomerantz said. Turkey’s medical sector is expected to continue to grow, with an estimated 20 percent annual growth rate for imports of medical equipment from America.
The Turkish defense and security sector is ripe for U.S. imports, and the upcoming privatization of Turk Telecom, one of the country’s largest telecommunications firms, will open opportunities in all areas of telecommunications, Mr. Pomerantz noted.
Mr. Pomerantz assists Georgia small- and medium-sized companies in the eastern Mediterranean. He recently helped Acworth-based Americo Manufacturing Inc., a manufacturer of industrial floor and restroom maintenance products, enter the Israeli market. He is available to answer questions from any Georgia company interested in doing business in the region.
Contact Mr. Pomerantz at Sherwin@atid-edi.com or (972) 2-571-0713 or visit www.georgia.org for more information.