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Olivera Jocić, Assistant Minister In The Sector For Foreign Trade Policy, Multilateral And Regional Economic And Trade Cooperation

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All measures that have been initiated, at both the national and regional levels, have contributed to Serbia’s trade exchange recording less of a decline than was forecast at the beginning of the crisis and the achieving of satisfactory results overall

The pandemic caused by COVID-19, which impacted the entire world in 2020, had a strong influence on the volume of trade and flows of goods transported in the region and beyond. As a response to the outbreak of the pandemic, the Government of the Republic of Serbia had a proactive approach and reacted immediately, with the introduction of measures at the domestic level, as well as internationally, and primarily at the regional level.

The government adopted a series of measures that were aimed at combating the pandemic and regularly supplying the population, while in parallel an initiative was launched towards the CEFTA region that aimed to ensure the unhindered flow of basic products that are essential for the population during the time of the pandemic, such as medicines, protective equipment and basic foodstuffs. In accordance with that, late March 2020 saw the establishing of green corridors/lanes in the CEFTA region, as a network of priority roads and border and administrative crossings through which the transport of goods could unfold unhindered. A list of basic products that have the right of priority passage was defined, with 24-hour working days secured and the presence of competent state bodies and inspectors, while there was also the specific establishing of electronic exchanges of information and advanced announcements of the arrival of priority goods at border/administrative crossings.

It should be noted that the countries of the region showed exceptional solidarity and successful joint work. We would emphasise the fact that this initiative proved itself to be one of the most successful examples of regional cooperation, which has contributed to meeting the needs of the population during the pandemic and preserving trade flows with our neighbours.

We expect to face the same challenges in foreign trade exchanges at the global and local levels this year as we did in 2020

On the basis of the successful implementation of this initiative within the CEFTA region, a proposal came to expand the modified mechanism of Green Corridors to encompass border crossings with the EU, which would be extremely significant given that the EU is the most important trade and investment partner of the entire CEFTA region.

It is important to highlight that all the measures that were initiated, at both the national and regional levels, have certainly contributed to Serbia’s trade exchange recording less of a decline than was forecast at the beginning of the crisis. Thus, in 2020 Serbian exports to the world recorded a decline of 2.7%, while imports fell by 3.8%. Compared to global trends or those of the EU, where exports fell by as much as 9.4% and imports by 11.6% last year, it can be concluded that Serbia achieved satisfactory results that were even better than those of its most important partners.

Serbia’s total world trade (worth over 40 billion euros) fell by 3.4% in 2020, while trade with the EU fell by 1.9% compared to 2019. In the trade exchange with CEFTA, that decline totalled 4.1%, while with the Russian Federation it was 31.2%. On the other hand, during the observed period the total trade exchange with China was up by 26.3% compared to 2019. In contrast to that, data from the World Trade Organization show that the volume of global trade was 5.3% lower in 2020 than it was in 2019. All regions recorded sharp declines in both imports and exports, with the exception of Asian countries, where exports were up by 0.3% and imports fell by 1.3%, primarily thanks to China’s dominant role and exports of essential products for combating the pandemic.

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