US, Georgia to mull free trade deal - Emirates24|7

US, Georgia to mull free trade deal

US President Barack Obama and his Georgian counterpart Mikheil Saakashvili discussed the possibility of sealing a bilateral free trade agreement during their talks at the White House.

"What we've agreed to is a high-level dialogue between our two countries about how we can continue to strengthen trade relations between our two countries, including the possibility of a free trade agreement," Obama said.

"Obviously there is a lot of work to be done and there are going to be a lot of options that are going to be explored," he said after the meeting, which came as the two nations mark the 20th anniversary of diplomatic ties.

"The key point, though, is we think it's a win-win for the United States and for Georgia."

Saakashvili added that such a deal would "attract lots of additional activity to my country."

Obama also touted security cooperation between Washington and the former Soviet republic, which sent hundreds of soldiers to Afghanistan.

The White House said that during the meeting, Obama confirmed Washington's support for Georgia's territorial sovereignty, in line with internationally recognized borders.

That was an allusion to South Ossetia, a breakaway Georgian region that was the focus of a brief war between Tbilisi and Moscow in 2008.

"I reaffirmed to the president and assured him that the United States will continue to support Georgia's aspirations to ultimately become a member of NATO," Obama said.

Tbilisi's NATO aspirations have infuriated neighbor Russia.

NATO leaders agreed before the 2008 war that Georgia and Ukraine could join at an unspecified point in the future, although they were denied coveted pre-membership status in the face of strong opposition from Moscow.

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