Business & trade, Europe, New in Lobbying

Hill & Knowlton ends Georgia trade promotion after PM’s visit

New York public relations firm Hill & Knowlton Strategies has terminated a $750,000 contract to promote US trade ties with Georgia that coincided with a Washington visit and a “US road show” by the country’s prime minister.

The contract with Georgia’s Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development began in April 2019 ahead of Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze‘s visit to the United States last June. The visit marked the 10th Anniversary of the US–Georgia Strategic Partnership that followed the 2008 war with Russia.

Bakhtadze notably met with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Wilbur Ross. He and Ross signed a memorandum of understanding on cooperation to enhance bilateral trade relations.

Bakhtadze’s 10-day trip also saw him visit San Francisco, Seattle and Dallas for meetings with business executives, tech start-up companies and investors as well as state and local officials. “Our strategy is to make Georgia a regional hub for tourism, for international business, logistics, education, and innovation,” he told the audience at the World Affairs Council in Seattle.

Until the contract ended on Feb. 28, the ministry paid Hill & Knowlton about $750,000 for “outreach to state and federal lawmakers, US businesses and US audiences” while spending another $1.1 million on media advertisements. Hill & Knowlton’s work had dried up in recent months, however, with the firm only disclosing a pair of emails to a Houston Chronicle business columnist in the past six months.

Hill & Knowlton has also terminated its relationship with Saudi Arabia’s National Center for Privatization on Dec. 1, 2019 and with the Egyptian Ministry of Investment and International Cooperation, effective April 7, according to the firm’s lobbying filing for the six months through May. The firm has not disclosed any recent lobbying work or payments on either of those contracts.

That leaves the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) as the firm’s sole registration under the Foreign Agents Lobbying Act (FARA).