The Agreement secures preferential trade access between the UK and Serbia with significant savings for business to support jobs and the wider economy
The UK and Serbia recently have signed a Partnership, Trade and Cooperation Agreement to ensure trade can continue and grow between the two countries.
We spoke with Dr David Landsman, Chairman of the British-Serbian Chamber of Commerce, about how the two countries will strengthen political, economic, security and cultural ties, and reaffirms the UK’s support for governance reform in Serbia.
On the 1st of January, Brexit actually and finally happened. Besides it will reshape the UK-EU relations so far, it will reshape Serbian-British economic relations. How would you assess our overall relations today?
Speaking from the perspective of the Chamber and so speaking about economic relations, I think the prospects are very strong. That’s essentially because we all know that so far we have not realized the full potential for businesses either from Serbia or the UK, but that the conditions are now in place for businesses, with the support of the governments, to seek out and realise new opportunities.
Brexit makes a big difference. Now Britain and Serbia are both in the same category as non-EU countries. For British business, there is every reason to look for opportunities in countries like Serbia, which are in Europe but not in the EU, now that there is no special reason to focus on EU countries.
So British companies can look at Serbia’s geographical position, a talented workforce, rapidly-improving infrastructure, Serbia’s trade deals with both the EU and countries like Russia and Turkey, as well as public investment plans – and see opportunities they may not have seen before. On the other side, Britain is a large and sophisticated market for Serbian products – from food and drink to manufactured goods – as well as increasingly an investment destination for ambitious tech companies. In short, we have some way to go but the prospects are very good.
Strong cooperation and improving infrastructure means that we as a Chamber and our partners can present a very convincing story to British business
The UK enforces the swift and successful vaccination rollout, which was proven to be the crucial thing for the recovery of the economy. Can we expect the British economy to be one of the leaders in 2021 and 2022?
It’s always been good to see Britain and Serbia at the top of the European vaccinations lists. The numbers speak for themselves: Britain is on track for very strong growth this year. The worst fears about the impact of Brexit have not been realized, by a long way. And Britain is well placed to take advantage of the “shocks” to the economy from both Brexit and the pandemic in a way which can leave the country stronger. So it’s a good time for innovative businesses to be looking at Britain.
Your connection to Serbia dates back to 1997. What do you think about Serbia’s role in this region? Where do you see potential for the cooperation`s growth?
So much has changed since 1997. I remember early on in my time as Chairman of the Chamber, I met Mr Marko Čadež in London. What struck me most was not his role as President of the Serbian Chamber of Commerce, but that he was also President of the WB6 association of Chambers. The fact that the Chambers, the businesses and the governments of the countries of the region are working closely together is hugely important for the attractiveness of the region to foreign investors.
The work towards a “mini-Schengen” sends a very positive signal about regional cooperation. Obviously the regional market is so much larger than that of any one country, and that makes it much more appealing. Strong cooperation, improving infrastructure and other investment means that we as a Chamber and our partners can present a very convincing story to British business. And obviously many of the routes to working in the region pass through Serbia.
What does the partnership, trade and cooperation agreement signed by Serbia and Great Britain bring and is this a new chapter in the relations between our two countries?
The agreement is of course a necessary step to ensuring that British and Serbian companies can enjoy broadly the same rights and opportunities as they did before Britain left the EU. So Britain has had to negotiate such agreements with many countries, which explains the delay in concluding the agreement with Serbia.
We and our members were very concerned about this and we pressed both Governments hard. But the good news is that the deal is now done. Not only is the deal important in itself, but it is a symbol of the two countries’ readiness to work together. Alongside the double taxation agreement and investment protection agreement, it is something we can build on for the future.