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Goran Pekez, President Of The Japanese Business Alliance In Serbia (JBAS)

Rising Investment Interests

The success stories of our members and interest in cooperating with Japan among local companies are important incentives for new investments and the expansion of cooperation. Developments in this field are fast-paced and it is JBAS’s duty to be in the driving seat

Thanks to the economic measures implemented by the Serbian Government over recent years, but also its incentive programme for attracting foreign investments in targeted sectors, Japanese companies have come to appreciate Serbia’s competitive advantages. Recent global developments have had a particular impact in terms of our need to shorten supply chains, but the experiences of Japanese companies already operating in Serbia clearly contributed to Serbia being chosen as an investment location”, says Goran Pekez, President of the Japanese Business Alliance in Serbia (JBAS).

Last year marked the 140th anniversary of the establishing of diplomatic relations between Japan and Serbia. When it comes to the economic area of cooperation, how much has it evolved over the last decade?

Both Japanese and Serbian businessmen will tell you that the 2018 visit of then Japanese Prime minister Shinzo Abe was a very important milestone. While interest among Japanese companies was growing well before that, the fact is that PM Abe was accompanied by a very influential delegation of the largest Japanese companies visiting Serbia for the first time.

They were jointly hosted by JBAS, JETRO, the Chamber of Commerce & Industry of Serbia and Serbian institutions at a major conference. Furthermore, thanks to the economic measures implemented by the Serbian Government over recent years, but also its incentive programme for attracting foreign investments in targeted sectors, Japanese companies have come to appreciate Serbia’s competitive advantages. Recent global developments have had a particular impact in terms of our need to shorten supply chains, but the experiences of Japanese companies already operating in Serbia clearly contributed to Serbia being chosen as an investment location.

Japanese Ambassador to Serbia H.E. Takahiko Katsumata has said that said Serbia’s geographical position and educated workforce, but also the strong support to Japanese companies provided by the Government of Serbia, represent important factors when it comes to advancing Japanese-Serbian economic and trade cooperation. What does JBAS single out as the main factors that could attract future Japanese investors?

Those factors clearly represent the basis for future growth too. For our part, in joint efforts with the Government of the Republic of Serbia, the Embassy of Japan and JBAS’s industrial committees, the Serbian market’s conditions for investing are improving every day.

Nidec electric motors made in Serbia will be installed in the latest generation vehicles and products. The newly opened Toyo Tires factory includes a solar energy plant designed to eliminate 200,000 tons of CO2 over its working life. Japanese companies are long-term investors that have come to Serbia for strategic reasons

The success stories of our members and interest in cooperating with Japan among local companies are important incentives for new investments and the expansion of cooperation. Developments in this field are fast-paced and it is JBAS’s duty to be in the driving seat.

JBAS plays an important role as an advisor to new Japanese investors arriving in Serbia. We heard recently that the level of Japanese investment in Serbia has now reached approximately 300 million dollars. How good is that result and how can you raise the bar?

Until a few years ago, Japanese companies included their investments in a wider map of their European operations. We are now witnessing a new trend of high-tech, strategic projects in our country that’s worth billions of euros, which has placed Serbia directly in the centre of top global investment destinations. The Serbian public is now becoming increasingly aware of the added value of Japanese flagship investments. Nidec electric motors made in Serbia will be installed in the latest generation vehicles and products.

The newly opened Toyo Tires factory includes a solar energy plant designed to eliminate 200,000 tons of CO2 over its working life. Japanese companies are long-term investors that have come to Serbia for strategic reasons. Many of them have been operating here for more than 20 years and managed to prove that well-organised agricultural production in Europe without government subsidies is possible. Having in mind the trend of increasing prices of agricultural products, attracting such high-tech investors can represent an opportunity that Serbia shouldn’t miss.

On the occasion of the national holiday of Japan, the Emperor’s birthday, JBAS was presented with a special award for outstanding achievements in strengthening ties between Japan and Serbia. What do you see as being the most important future directions of JBAS’s activities?

Working with the Embassy of Japan and H.E. Ambassador Katsumata is one of the key factors in expanding bilateral cooperation with Japan in the period ahead. Our focus will remain on searching for opportunities to advance the business operations of Japanese investors already present on the Serbian market. In addition, we will support business missions and inquiries from potential new Japanese investors. Another new project on the horizon is Expo 2025, where we hope that Serbia will receive a fair share of attention for its investment offer and we will duly support that effort.

With the generous support of the Government of Japan, UNDP recently launched implementation of the project “Real Green Transition and Decarbonization in Serbia”. What role does JBAS play in the implementation of this project?

Top economic development goals set by the EU – such as being climate-neutral, the green economy, fit for the digital age, rural development and highly developed and regulated digital services – have topped the agenda in Japan for decades already.

Another new project on the horizon is Expo 2025, where we hope that Serbia will receive a fair share of attention for its investment offer and we will duly support that effort

Serbia and Serbian companies can learn and benefit significantly from the further improvement of cooperation with Japan. This is why JBAS strongly supported promotions and applications for this important project of UNDP and Japan.

How do you coordinate your work with the Japanese institutions that support trade cooperation and exchange?

We highly appreciate and respect the work of all chambers and associations in both Serbia and Japan. As for later, JETRO and JICA are among our honorary members, while JBAS is the official reference for Serbia from the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Cooperation with these institutions is necessary, because our members operate together on the Serbian market and we both share its good practices while also facing the same obstacles to doing business. Together we can do more to improve capacities to build a competitive economy and improve the regulatory framework, which will have a positive impact on industry and the Serbian economy in general.

How do you see the rest of 2023 unfolding? How concerned and optimistic are you considering the current economic situation?

JBAS member companies share global optimism that the Serbian economy will resume its positive trends in the coming period. We also fully support Serbia’s efforts to join the EU, in the hope that those efforts will advance further. The outcome of these changes is expected to improve legislation, the environment, conditions for doing business and, ultimately, quality of life.

INVESTMENTS

We are now witnessing a new trend of hightech, strategic projects in our country that’s worth billions of euros, which has placed Serbia directly in the centre of top global investment destinations

FOCUS

Our focus will remain on searching for opportunities to advance the business operations of Japanese investors already present on the Serbian market

OPPORTUNITY

Having in mind the trend of increasing prices of agricultural products, attracting such high-tech investors can represent an opportunity that Serbia shouldn’t miss