Serbia has several important factors that make it an attractive place to do business. Among them are a talented labor force, good infrastructure, a stable currency, a facilitative regulatory environment, and close proximity to regional markets, including the Western Balkans and the EU
U.S. companies have spent more than 20 years investing significantly in many sectors in Serbia – food processing, automotive, information technology, agriculture, and others. In a positive feedback loop, the continued success of many of these companies has drawn the attention of other companies.
According to Joseph Boski, First Secretary at the Embassy of the United States to Serbia, this is why American companies, European companies, and others are increasingly choosing Serbia as a place to invest. Indeed, says our interlocutor, “continued success does not happen by accident”.
Are there specific sectors or industries that you believe provide untapped potential for bilateral trade and investment?
– There are many sectors that are doing very well and will continue to grow – these include the automotive and IT industries. I am confident these sectors will build on the successes they have already achieved. Tourism, and the service sector more broadly, are also likely to experience significant growth in the short- and medium-term.
Two sectors with untapped potential and significant room to grow are the financial sector and agriculture. Serbia can expand in both of these sectors and become a modern, regional hub with smart agriculture and high-end financial services. One step that could help both these sectors is the development of a sophisticated wholesale or commodities market that could serve Serbia and the region. A commodities market could simplify contracts for all parties, thereby significantly reducing transaction costs, particularly for agriculture.
The dynamism of the U.S. economy, and of the U.S.-Serbian commercial relationship, is extraordinary
This would positively impact both domestic and international sales. At the same time, the development of a sophisticated commodities market would create demand for advanced financial services, creating a positive feedback loop between these two sectors. A more vigorous financial services sector would improve access to credit for households and provide better investment vehicles for households and businesses.
How does the Open Balkan Initiative factor into this?
– The countries of the Western Balkan region have numerous complementary synergies. All countries in the region could benefit from more efficient trade, as well as larger, more open consumer and labor markets. The Open Balkan Initiative is one of several regional integration efforts that support the goals of more efficient, more open movement of goods, services, people, and capital.
These efforts – the Open Balkan Initiative, CEFTA, the Berlin Process, and others – are complementary and should be viewed as such. Advances in any of these processes should benefit the regional economy overall, but also encourage further progress in other processes.
What plans does the U.S. Embassy have to facilitate future trade and investment between the two countries?
– A lot is going on in U.S.-Serbian commercial relationships. In the last year, the U.S. Embassy facilitated two major trade missions to Serbia with over 50 U.S. companies – many of which are among the largest companies in the world. Members of the American Chamber of Commerce recently visited Washington, while a new Serbian-U.S. business association was just established in the United States.
U.S. companies in the IT sector have made significant and lasting contributions to Serbia’s economy, while enjoying a mutually beneficial relationship
The dynamism of the U.S. economy and of the U.S.-Serbian commercial relationship is extraordinary. The Embassy will continue to work with established and new companies interested in expanding these dynamic commercial ties. We will be providing support to numerous companies in a range of sectors – from finance to health care, and from energy to infrastructure.
How would you evaluate the overall business and investment climate in Serbia, taking into account factors like the regulatory environment, infrastructure, and skilled labor?
– For U.S. and other foreign investors, the successful track record and continued investment in Serbia is clear evidence of a welcoming business and investment climate. The ease of establishing businesses and the very competent workforce, regulatory framework, and infrastructure are all factors that contribute to a good overall business environment.
Of course, there are challenges – such as a continued need to improve the rule of law and what seems to be a tightening of the labor market. The latter – the relatively tight labor market – is an indicator of significant success, but continued economic growth will require an increasingly dynamic and perhaps larger labor force.
Within the context of economic cooperation between the U.S. and Serbia, how significant is innovation and the digital economy?
– U.S. companies in the IT sector have made significant and lasting contributions to Serbia’s economy, while enjoying a mutually beneficial relationship. This relationship includes job creation, knowledge transfer, the adoption of best management practices, and a culture of innovation and success.
I would like to close with one observation that has struck me over my first year living and working in my adopted home of Belgrade. This is something that is very clear among U.S. companies investing in Serbia in all sectors, especially IT. Every time I meet with the country directors of U.S. companies in Serbia, the vast majority of the time I am meeting a Serb. U.S. companies invest in and rely on the people of Serbia.
The best jobs at U.S. companies, the top management positions – for example, an executive leading a team of 5,000 workers at one IT company and others being responsible for teams with several thousand each – those top positions, the very best jobs at these U.S. companies, are filled by Serbian citizens. This really shows the deep level of commitment from American companies – we aren’t just looking for a platform for Americans to work in Europe, rather American companies are looking for a long-term, mutually beneficial partnership with Serbia and the Serbian people.
Serbia has been among the world’s leading countries in attracting Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) for several years
Two sectors with untapped potential and significant room to grow are the financial sector and agriculture
The Open Balkan Initiative, CEFTA, the Berlin Process, and others, are all complementary and should be viewed as such