Serbia has a well-educated workforce, that one of the reasons why inward investors come to Serbia these days
The British Serbian Chamber of Commerce sees a wide variety of sectors with potential. These include several infrastructure sectors – transport including rail and road, green energy. We talked about further economic relations between Serbia and UK with Richard Robinson, BSCC Executive Director in Belgrade.
You have abundant experience as a director of the British Chamber, as well as from working in finance. How would you rate the Serbian market and the cooperation we have with the UK?
At the British Serbian Chamber of Commerce (BSCC) we see the Serbian market as having great potential in a wide variety of sectors. Now the new UK-Serbian Partnership Trade and Cooperation Agreement has come into force companies in both countries can plan with more certainty and we anticipate growth in bilateral trade. One of the consequences of the UK leaving the EU is that many UK companies are reviewing their export plans and considering exporting to the West Balkans and Serbia for the first time.
In which segments can economic cooperation improve? Which economic sectors have the potential for the further development of cooperation?
The British Serbian Chamber of Commerce sees a wide variety of sectors with potential. These include several infrastructure sectors – transport including rail and road, green energy (which fits in with the UK Government’s Chairmanship of COP26 in Glasgow later this year). The UK government is providing further support with its recent increase in funds and guarantees available through UK Export Finance.
Other important sectors for the BSCC include us supporting Serbian food producers wanting to break into the UK market and UK branded goods manufacturers increase sales to Serbia. We are also working to promote links between the IT sectors in both countries, whether it is helping Serbian Tech start-ups establish in the UK or UK companies establishing in Serbia and gaining access to the expertise here.
What can Serbia do to further improve the environment for doing business and thus attract more British investments? What do British investors insist on before investing, what can Serbia offer them, do we have enough educated workforce and what do you think of the conditions for doing business here?
The BSCC is committed to support the Serbian government improve the business environment. Businesses cannot thrive without a reliable and predictable environment and the strong rule of law. As an indication of the current improvement, Belgrade topped Emerging Europe’s 2021 listing as the city with most economic potential (and 9th overall climbing 15 places since the 2020 listing).
We are working to promote links between the IT sectors in both countries
As our focus has been on supporting bilateral trade, we have been making representations to both governments on behalf of our members. On occasion we work closely with and through other organisations. We are members both of the Foreign Investors Council in Belgrade and also of the British Chambers of Commerce Global Business Network. We maintain good relations with the Serbian Chamber of Commerce (PKS) and the Serbian Development Agency (RAS). Overall, Serbia has a well-educated workforce (one of the reasons why inward investors come to Serbia these days).
How much were British companies in Serbia affected by the Covid-induced crisis and did the companies contact you with special requests?
Of course, UK companies in Serbia were affected by the pandemic. They also supported the nation by providing a range of support to state bodies and NGOs. One of the complications of the last year has been the frequent changes in rules covering travel between the UK and Serbia. We have been continually updating our members on the latest regulations for both countries. The success of vaccination programmes in both countries has made it slightly easier to travel at present. But we will continue to brief our members on any further changes whenever necessary.
What challenges will the UK and Serbia face this year and do you think that the end of this crisis is near? What do you think the future of British-Serbian relations will be like?
The pandemic will continue to affect the commercial and economic relationship between the UK and Serbia even as societies adjust back somewhat. Despite that, I believe that the opportunities to strengthen the bilateral commercial relationship will grow: the new trade agreement will settle down and enable trade to increase and encourage further inward investment. At the British Serbian Chamber of Commerce, we will continue to look after our members and promote opportunities as they arise.