Georgian ambassador talks trade at Providence
Georgia’s newly appointed ambassador to Canada visited Providence University College in Otterburne on March 17, where he discussed everything from international trade opportunities to the “horrible” war raging across the Black Sea from his home country.
Kaha Imnadze spent two hours in conversation with a roomful of about 50 business students and faculty members in Providence’s Buller School of Business, during which he showcased both his sense of humour and his seasoned knowledge of international affairs.
The business school’s dean, David Iremadze, facilitated the ambassador’s visit. Iremadze is a dual Canadian-Georgian citizen who formed the nascent Canadian-Georgian Chamber of Commerce to promote bilateral trade, entrepreneurship, investment, and cultural exchange between the two countries.
Imnadze’s visit to Providence—where one in three students are international—occurred amid two days of Winnipeg meetings with academics, business leaders, and four provincial cabinet ministers.
Imnadze, an experienced civil servant and diplomat who speaks four languages, began his career in 1989 as a 20-year-old intern in Georgia’s department of foreign affairs. He first came to Canada on an exchange program in 1990. He spent his early career in the private sector as an investment and international security consultant. Cabinet positions in the Georgian government followed.
Imnadze was appointed to his ambassador post last summer following a decade as Georgia’s permanent representative to the United Nations, where he focused on universal health care and sustainable development.
Imnadze said he wants to explore Canada’s potential for economic exchange. He explained Georgia has “a perfect political relationship” with Canada, but virtually no business ties. The COVID-19 pandemic, meanwhile, has underscored the importance of diversifying Georgia’s distribution and supply chains.
“The world is much more connected than we think,” he said.
Canada and Georgia recently celebrated 30 years of diplomatic relations. Iremadze noted Canada was one of the first countries to recognize Georgia’s independence in 1992.
Provencher MP Ted Falk and RM of De Salaberry councillor Diana Cline helped welcome Imnadze to Providence.
“This is a rare opportunity to have an ambassador of a foreign country visit a higher education institution,” Falk said.
Georgia is a country of four million people located at the intersection of Europe and Asia. Sandwiched between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea, the former Soviet republic shares a border with Russia, Turkey, Armenia, and Azerbaijan.
Imnadze was candid about his country’s place on the world stage, calling Georgia “a country that relies on multilateralism.”
“Being Georgian always means that we’re seeking to find friends around the world,” he said.
“Big countries, they can afford to make mistakes. Small countries cannot make mistakes, because every mistake that they make is an existential one for them.”
Regional trade routes and energy corridors run through Georgia, which Imnadze said is known for its “highly qualified labour force” and the scientific research conducted at its universities.
Imnadze said Manitoba’s agricultural technology sector would be of great benefit to Georgia, where everything from cereal grains to kiwi fruit are grown.
“Georgians are, by default, farmers,” he said. “It’s in their blood.”
Imnadze touted Georgia’s deregulated economy, which facilitates entrepreneurship and the importation and exportation of goods.
“If you want to start your business, it takes a day to establish the company,” he said.
Georgia ranks among the top 10 countries in the world for ease of doing business, Imnadze said, while offering robust transparency and anti-corruption laws.
Imnadze didn’t mince words when discussing the war in Ukraine, calling it a “terrible war” that “shouldn’t have started at all.”
“Whatever the outcome, none of the countries will be the same,” he said.
The war has put Georgia in a delicate political spot. Once part of the Russian Empire, Georgia now seeks to join NATO and is providing humanitarian aid to Ukraine, all while existing next door to Russia.
Imnadze, who was once part of a Georgian thinktank that studied Russia, said Georgia has a ceasefire agreement, but no peace agreement, with Russia, and won’t consider negotiating one until the war is over.
As he concluded his talk, Imnadze encouraged students to develop their critical thinking skills and make decisions that produce satisfaction in their relationships and their career.
Anna Mondor, vice-president of external relations at Providence, said the ambassador’s visit was a way for students to develop a global outlook on business.
“We want to create leaders with an international perception of the world,” she said.
Kent Anderson, president of Providence, said many Canadian universities are adopting a more global perspective to attract international students and to better understand the complexities of the contemporary world.
“We’re really proud to have been able to convene the connection between our two countries,” Anderson said.