Serbian Trade Minister, Rasim Ljajic says that CEFTA has to be improved, and that the Serbian government is willing to do whatever it takes in forming a joint economic area in the region of Western Balkans.
At the opening of the CEFTA Week in Belgrade, Ljajic said that the issues regarding free flow of people and goods in CEFTA countries should be resolved, and that this was the key problem to be discussed at the gathering in Belgrade that lasts until 24th November.
The Trade Minister quoted problems like trucks waiting at border crossings between 7 and 48 hours to be custom cleared, and mentioned Georgia as a positive example where custom clearance at the border lasts 7minutes in total.
He also said that trucks spend 26 million hours annually at the borders while waiting to be custom cleared, while 800 million EUR is spent on paying for various services provided at border crossings; the amount which is tantamount to 1% of the cumulative GDP of the CEFTA countries.
Ljajic does acknowledge that the Central European Free Trade Agreement has been very successful, and that, owing to this trade agreement, the countries signatories have increased their exports, competitiveness and productivity. However, he also notes that the agreement has been stagnating for quite a while. “We’ve been going around in circles, just talking that we want to do more and move forwarded, but that hasn’t happened as yet”, Ljajic added.
He also pointed out that CEFTA was, in no shape or form, a substitute for the EU membership. “The EU membership cannot be replaced by any economic integration because ¾ of the external trade of the Western Balkan countries is done with the EU”, the minister said.
This post is also available in: Italiano