This might be the dawn of a new period for Georgia’s trade relations. In terms of emerging partners, the UK stands out. Indeed, it is the largest investor in the Georgian economy and trade between the two countries has been simplified even further.

But perhaps the most innovative project for the robustly developing ties is the creation of the UK-Georgia Trade Hub (UGTH). It was founded by a Georgian businessmen residing in the UK. Bachi Gabunia, founder and CEO, managed to successfully combine many years of legal and private sector knowledge with the new business reality emanating from the COVID-19 pandemic.

UGTH’s aim is to simplify bilateral trade and to unite small and medium-sized businesses interested in entering the British market. Before, businesses had to go through complicated procedures that required a lot of time and energy, in addition to financial expenses. Now, commercial ties between Georgia and the UK have been made a lot easier. The trade hub actually consists of two hubs: one in Tbilisi and one in London, and its aim is to facilitate logistical-administrative services by cutting the costs of storing goods. UGTH offers storage in a bonded warehouse, access to private, online stock supply monitoring, management and administration, monthly bookkeeping and accounting of warehoused goods etc.

Some global developments, too, might have aided the creation of the UGTH. Firstly, Brexit. Since the UK imports about 70% of its goods, and mostly from continental Europe, the withdrawal from the EU means the UK is now more open to importing from outside of Europe.

The pandemic also changed the very fabric of global trade. E-commerce is on the rise, which, ideally, would allow Georgian goods to be sold in the UK more easily. The UGTH helps Georgian businesses deliver goods to customers quickly in London, with aspirations of this process taking only two hours in the future. What’s more, there are no upper or lower limits for the number of goods sent – entrepreneurs can ship as little as one pallet of their production to the UK. In that regard, UGTH’s packaging-when-transferring service is ideal for facilitating shipping. This proves a lot more beneficial than the previous method, when shipping a whole container was the only option.

The UGTH could be also instrumental in promoting the UK’s trade interests in Georgia. The UK is interested in the goods it could export to Georgia. Georgia’s location means that British products can reach the wider Caucasus and even the Caspian area along with the Central Asian region. Another direction would be to use Georgia as a launching pad or hub for reaching the Middle East too, e.g. Iran.

Georgia could also be considered as a place for packaging British products. The country could aim to replace countries such as Bulgaria and Latvia on the British market. This will help increase the production expertise of the Georgian market, further increase wages and help link more tightly to the European market. This is where the UGTH could play a pivotal role, bridging the gap between the countries.

Mid-sized businesses with great export potential, but who are financially small and vulnerable, will be among the primary benefactors of the UGTH project. It aims at increasing the export possibilities of those products which are quality-wise closer to British standards first. Numerous Georgian-produced juices, spices, churchkhela and handmade jewellery are now seeing a great chance for successful import.

It is a great time for UK-Georgia relations. Both seek diversification of commercial ties as a result of both the pandemic and Brexit. For Tbilisi, it is an opportunity to anchor itself onto the European market; for London, the Georgian market means something bigger – a window to the heart of Eurasia through Georgia’s rail-road infrastructure. The UGTH could play a pivotal role in advancing this vision.

Emil Avdaliani