The US International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) opened its office in Belgrade yesterday at a ceremony at which the Serbian Prime Minister and DFC’s CEO also signed a joint statement.
Prime Minister, Ana Brnabic and DFC’s CEO, Adam Boehler signed a joint statement before the office was opened via video link. Brnabic and Boehler unveiled a TV screen to show a video of US ambassador Anthony Godfrey walking to the DFC office and saying in Serbian We are Open for Business.
Speaking at a joint news conference with President Aleksandar Vucic later, Boehler said that the opening of the DFC office in Belgrade is a historic moment and welcomed the courage of the Serbian President and Kosovo Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti along with US President Donald Trump in signing the White House Agreements because that means the region will not be trapped in the past but will look to the future.
The leaders of the region chose their people instead of divisions and new jobs instead of the division of the past, he said, and added that a billion dollars have been earmarked for a number of projects. The opening of the DFC office is not symbolic, it will stay here, showing our interest in the economic development of the region, the DFC CEO said.
The DFC office will be headed by John Jovanovic, an American of Serbian descent, who said that he wants to see the Balkans become synonymous with peace, a region that will not see its young people leave but return to work at American investments.
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He said the opening of the office is a unique opportunity for the region and the start of economic development. “Our job is beginning and we are grateful for the support the DFC enjoys,” he said, adding that he decided to quit his job in the US to take the job in Belgrade.
According to President Vucic, the DFC office will enjoy full support in Serbia because, he said, the opening of the office is important to the future of the country. He said that Serbia reached its maximum of 854 million dollars in trade with the US last year and added that the DFC will help raise the level of that trade.
“Wherever the Americans come to invest, that place has a future. These are good signals and excellent symbols for the country,” the president said.
He said the doors have been opened to renew Serbia’s old friendship with the US, adding that the talks in Washington were not easy. “Serbia will meet all its obligations in the agreement,” Vucic said. He said that the idea is for Serbia to develop economic relations with its Western Balkans partners. “We want to have the four great freedoms – freedom of movement of people, goods, capital and services,” he said.
The US President’s envoy for Kosovo Richard Grenell said that Washington is serious about its promises to Belgrade and Pristina to open new jobs. We want to fulfil the promises we made to Serbian officials and focus on economic development, he said. According to him, symbolism is important but it does not put food on the table. “Political issues will appear but when people have well-paid jobs, the tension and political fights will be reduced,” Grenell added.
To remind, DFC and the Export-Import Bank of the United States (EXIM) recently signed Letters of Interest (LOIs) with Serbia and Kosovo to help finance the important projects identified US-brokered agreement on the normalization of economic relations between Kosovo and Serbia, signed by Serbian president Aleksandar Vucic and Kosovo’s Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti on September 4 in Washington.
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