Participants in the round table discussion on the prospects of China’s new Silk Road estimated that although last year saw the largest increase in Serbian exports to China, Serbia still mainly exports raw materials, instead of high-value-added products.
“The export of crude copper has increased significantly. In 2021, Zijin exported processed copper, but the needs of the Chinese market for copper are so great that it cannot wait for that product to be processed in Serbia. Therein lies our problem. We export raw materials instead of high-value-added products. We would like to see the Serbian government conclude an agreement (on external trade with China), that will allow institutional support for Serbian entrepreneurs to enter the Chinese market, because without the government’s help there is no chance, as the Chinese market is one of the most difficult to penetrate in the world,’ said Katarina Zakić, a research associate at the Institute of International Politics and Economics.
Economic relations between Serbia and China prior to 2009 were very modest, she pointed out, adding that since 2017, more active exports from Serbia have been noted, and in 2019 and 2020, there was a sudden jump. “The only thing we had (before 2009) was a huge deficit with China, huge imports and low exports. By far the biggest jump was recorded last year – almost a billion US dollars. However, such a big increase is attributed to the Chinese company, not Serbian companies,’ she said.
According to Zakić, the Chinese investments in the automotive industry in Serbia are especially important now that Fiat’s production in Kragujevac has been suspended, so people who have lost their jobs can continue working in their field.
The head of the Asia and Oceania Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Serbia, Irena Šarac, underlines that China is very well positioned in Serbia when it comes to economic cooperation and that in 2021, Serbian exports reached an ‘all-time high’.
“The idea of signing the external trade agreement with China by the end of the year is quite ambitious but extremely important. It will create great potential for cooperation and improve bilateral relations in many areas,” Šarac said adding that China is the second largest foreign investor in Serbia, the first partner in the import of goods and the fifth in exports.
(Biznis i Finansije, 27.09.2022)
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