AmCham has been a partner to the Serbian Government for 22 years and throughout that time has been working to better position Serbia as an attractive investment destination, implementing reforms, and aligning regulations with EU standards for future membership. Our partnership is vital in addressing current opportunities and challenges
The Serbian economy continues to face many challenges. That’s why it is crucial for us to work with the Government to build institutional capacities, wherein the most important aspects for businesses are judicial efficiency, the rule of law, and continued digital transformation to improve transparency, says AmCham Executive Director Vera Nikolić Dimić.
Other areas of interest and action include the green agenda for an environmentally sound and energy efficient Serbia, enhancements to the health care system, and support for regional initiatives aimed at Serbia’s integration into the EU, such as the Open Balkan initiative, adds our interlocutor.
How do you work and coordinate with other AmChams throughout the region in order to help achieve the Open Balkan vision?
– The business community across the region is interested in all four freedoms of movement that Open Balkan focuses on, namely the movement of people, goods, services, and capital. However, there is insufficient awareness among corporations about the results already achieved. This prompted AmChams in Serbia, North Macedonia, and Albania to conduct research that involved several surveys with major importers and exporters in these countries that revealed the Open Balkan’s tangible benefits. For instance, major progress has been made in addressing long-standing non-tariff barriers and obstacles, which has facilitated trade in the region, in particular imports and exports of foodstuffs. The findings of these surveys show that, in some cases, the time needed to import or export food has been cut by up to 50 percent, with direct costs of fees and charges reduced by up to 80 percent. Viewed together, we see that the changes have helped increase the volume of trade across Open Balkan countries by close to 30 percent.
Of course, businesses believe that Open Balkan will only achieve its full potential if it is extended to all regional non-EU markets, and that is something we will continue working on.
These findings will help all of us together to take greater strides in improving regional economic connectivity.
Much more potential cooperation with other AmChams lies ahead. Judging by our experiences to date, I feel we are all doing a good job, whilst also enjoying the projects we are working on together.
How successful has the Serbian Government been over the past year in addressing global challenges that have had a negative impact on the Serbian market?
– In times like these, when local challenges are compounded by global ones, such as the global energy crisis and the war in Ukraine, government plays a more important and greater role in implementing reforms. Much remains to be done in this field as well, including shifting to green energy, improving health care and education, and enhancing transparency and predictability.
In challenging times like these, with global issues like the energy crisis and the war in Ukraine, the government needs to take on a vital role in implementing reforms
That said, tangible progress has been made in several areas. Notably, infrastructure is improving, macroeconomic stability has been preserved, and Serbia is participating actively in regional initiatives such as Open Balkan.
With growth currently very low, what are the key issues that ought to be considered by the business community?
– In order to always be certain that we can fully support businesses, we conduct an annual survey of our members that tells us what can be enhanced to improve their performance. This survey is currently ongoing, so I can’t tell you what the results will be, but I believe businesses will primarily seek help in identifying and supporting areas that hold the most potential to promote growth, such as the knowledge economy, biomedicine, and modern agriculture – all of which are sectors that add substantial value to products before they are exported or consumed.
We recently saw the Serbian Government partly alter its policies designed to attract investment. How can these changes influence Serbia’s status as a destination for American investors?
– Any business needs a stable and predictable business environment, as all our member companies agree. Very few of them utilize any subsidies. Without false modesty, I can say that AmCham today brings together the best in the Serbian economy. Our membership comprises as many as 240 American and local companies that have together invested over 14 billion euros in Serbia and employ 100,000 people. Some of the policies you mentioned are quite beneficial, such as the requirement to use manufacturing equipment and technologies that have a minimal impact on the environment. This is an important aspect for all of us, not least as Serbian citizens, who not only live here, but also hold this country in trust for future generations.
The business community across the region is interested in all four freedoms of movement that Open Balkan focuses on: the movement of people, goods, services, and capital
Greater potential for cooperation with other AmChams lies ahead, as our experiences show that we are effectively and enjoyably working on shared projects
Tangible progress has been made in infrastructure, macroeconomic stability, and Serbia’s active participation in regional initiatives like Open Balkan