After the European Union, the CEFTA region is the second most important foreign trade partner of Serbia, and last year, the value of the total trade within CEFTA reached 4.2 billion euro.
Exports amounted to 3.2 billion euro, a 5.8 per cent increase compared to 2017, the highest since 2006, which is the year of CEFTA’s inception.
Last year, imports from the CEFTA countries amounted to 958 million euro, an increase of 13.7 per cent compared to 2017. The export to import ratio stood at 339.5 per cent.
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The most important trade partners of Serbia among CEFTA countries are Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Macedonia, in both export and import.
However, the Serbian Minister of Trade, Tourism and Telecommunications, Rasim Ljajic said that the Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA) “is drawing its last breath and needs to recover in order to stay alive”.
Ljajic also said that, after the introduction of a 100 per cent tax on Serbian goods by Kosovo and other non-customs barriers, this 2006 agreement was called into question.
The Minister added that due to the inability of selling its goods in Kosovo, Serbia was losing about one million euro daily.
He mentioned the possibility of forming CEFTA Plus but added that it was difficult for any agreement to come to life without the support of the European Union.
“We need to openly discuss all ongoing issues; how to remove trade barriers, harmonize the certificates and liberalize the labour market,” Ljajic underlined.
He also pointed to large losses due to trucks waiting a very long time at border crossings.
The participants of the Kopaonik Business Forum also agreed that CEFTA was obsolete and that CEFTA countries should embark on a new phase.
President of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Serbia, Marko Cadez said that the CEFTA countries should decide whether they wanted a common economic area or not.
“Making additional economic plans without having any structure in place does not make sense. CEFTA is obsolete and we should start a new phase if we want to create a unified economic policy,” said Cadez.
He added that a new, comprehensive agreement should be made that should cover all issues related to the single market.
(Vecernje Novosti, 24.03.2019)
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