As Georgia seeks new investment from fast-growing emerging markets, the state shouldn’t forget its old friends across the Atlantic, European leaders said Thursday.
Diplomats, elected officials, economic developers and business leaders gathered in Athens for the Annual Georgia European Union Summit, a dinner event held each year to show appreciation for Georgia’s longstanding trade and business partners in Europe.
Dynamic countries like Brazil, China and India shouldn’t be ignored, but zeal for emerging markets shouldn’t blind business leaders to Europe’s current impact and future promise, said Chris Smith, a Macon attorney and the honorary consul for Denmark in Georgia.
The so-called BRIC countries might start sending more business to Georgia in the not-too-distant future, but for now, European countries have a much larger economic footprint in the state.
“There are more Georgians working for Danish companies than there are working for Chinese companies. There are more Georgians working for Liechtenstein companies than for Russian companies,” said Mr. Smith, who helped found the summit, which is now in its 10th year.
Mr. Smith added that Swedish companies employ more people in Georgia than all of the BRIC countries combined. The top European investing nations in Georgia are the United Kingdom, France, the Netherlands and Germany, whose companies employ more people in the state than those from any other country.
Mr. Smith also noted that 60 percent of foreign investment in Georgia comes from Europe and that European companies tend to create high-paying, high-tech jobs and take a more proactive approach to exporting.
“I don’t think that people really understand the size and scope of the relationship,” he said.
German Consul General Lutz Görgens called the trans-Atlantic relationship the most important for both the U.S. and Europe, especially considering their strong historical, cultural and philosophical ties.
He urged both sides to cooperate economically and to resist the temptation to put up trade barriers, possibly referring to the current global backlash over the Federal Reserve‘s decision to pump $600 billion into the U.S. Treasury.
Critics including Germany’s central bank head have said the move is aimed at weakening the dollar to promote American exports, making the U.S. guilty of the same currency manipulation for which it lectures China.
“We should not look for unilateral solutions, but we should neither pounce on our friends when they do something that we do not fully embrace yet,” Dr. Görgens said.
Athens Mayor Heidi Davison welcomed the group at the dinner, which was held in Athens for the first time.
“I think all of Athens is very much like a lot of Europe, and I think you’ll feel very comfortable here in that respect,” she said, noting the inherent value of travel and cultural exchange.
Diplomats on hand for the dinner included Mr. Smith, Dr. Görgens, George Novak, honorary consul general for the Czech Republic and Bruce Allen, honorary consul general for Liechtenstein.
For more information about the Annual Georgia European Union Summit, email Mr. Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org.