It’s been 18 years since AmCham’s inception in Serbia. We are talking to Vera Nikolić Dimić, Executive Director of AmCham, about the Chamber’s future plans, reform goals and their collaboration with the US Embassy in Serbia.
You have recently presented a report about AmCham’s results from last year. Which achievements would you like to single out?
– 2019th is the year of our “coming-of-age”, as we are now 18 years old! First, it was a group of enthusiasts that gathered around the idea of the creation of the American Chamber of Commerce in Serbia and now we are ten times bigger and we represent more than 200 most successful American, international and domestic companies that are the healthiest and the most prosperous part of the Serbian economy. We are one of the most active AmChams out of the 44-member network of AmChams in Europe that provide our members with a high-level platform for networking and cover key issues facing the Serbian market and our members. Looking back, one of the first public events that the newly appointed Finance Minister attended was our business breakfast, where we discussed issues relating to public finances, tax reform and an increase of tax regulations’ predictability. Also, we played host to Tax Administration Director, Dragana Marković and discussed topics like tax regulations, risk analyses, efficiency and combating shadow economy. We held our sixth Lap Time Conference where we presented our annual survey, laying out AmCham’s key concerns in regard to improving the business environment. Also, we presented the Global Illicit Trade Environment Index together with the Economist Intelligence Unit, as well as the Quarterly Monitor of University of Belgrade’s Faculty of Economics. We have organized numerous briefings, roundtables and seminars with relevant government ministries.
Which AmCham’s long-term initiatives do you consider the most important for achieving reform goals?
– We are leading the change by echoing the voice of the Serbian economy. Our agenda and initiatives are defined two years in advance, based on the results of the AmCham member survey, and focus on issues that affect membership, such as combating shadow economy, improving healthcare system, environmental protection, improving tax, labor and business regulations, working on much more efficient procedures in the state administration, etc. Nevertheless, the rule of law, efficient public administration and judiciary and relentless fight against corruption are the main prerequisites for sustainable growth and development of the Serbian economy.
Together with 22 national AmChams, you participated in three-day Brussels Briefing meetings. What are your impressions and in which way should we change our economic environment in order to stay competitive?
– As part of the Transatlantic Week, AmCham EU hosted a three-day Brussels Briefing to facilitate exchange and discussion among national AmChams across Europe. This year’s Transatlantic Week was set against a backdrop of a rapidly changing global economy and new transatlantic challenges. The message from all speakers was one of optimism, reiterating that despite facing challenges, cooperation – not competition – is key to future growth. The free, fair and rules-based trade is a cornerstone of a competitive economic environment.
Which of the Chamber’s activities in 2019, geared towards your members, would you like to single out?
– As a catalyst of inclusive economic change and committed promoter of good governance principles in Serbia, the American Chamber of Commerce is always prepared to support our members’ needs and serve as a platform to help them achieve their business interests. Through various activities, formats and events, we are always working on emphasizing their voice on needed policy improvements, helping them expand valuable contact network and facilitating their professional development. Our promise is to constantly create value for our members, and our work on fulfilling that promise made us the leading business community we are today. With an aim of creating higher consistency in judicial practice, we will organize a series of topic-based roundtables with the judiciary representatives during that will tackle specific areas of judicial practice, such as bankruptcy, enforcement, labor regulations, illicit trade and IPR, real estate, etc. We will continue our work in bridging the gap between the formal education and real market needs through our landmark program AmChamps that this year enrolled its sixth generation. Furthermore, this year we have awarded Dr Miodrag Stojkovic with the Leader in Change Award and we will continue fostering our commitment to improving the education system and cooperating with academia.
Which initiatives do you and the US Embassy in Serbia cooperate the most?
– AmCham and the US Embassy have longterm cooperation and we have many joint initiatives based on our common values. One example of our cooperation has very practical results that help business move the boundaries is related to trade facilitation and is realized together with the USAID REG Project. We believe that the equalization of foreign trade procedures in the region is a great export opportunity for Serbia, which needs to be built side by side with the simplification of import procedures. Our cooperation extends further to topics such as empowering women in the IT sector, cybersecurity and intellectual property rights.
One of your initiatives is called “Women in Tech Mentoring Program”. Could you elaborate, please?
– This is one of the programs jointly created with the US Embassy. As a high-class interpersonal skills development & networking platform, Women in Tech Mentoring Program connected successful women from the business and startup community, willing to shatter glass ceilings all over the tech & digital industry. “Women in Tech” was designed to empower women to learn, act and connect. The program fostered mentorship, personal and career development workshops, inspirational speakers and networking opportunities. Program gathered a selected group of 24 exceptional women leaders from ICT industry – 12 women coming from AmCham member companies, taking up the role of mentors and up to 12 coming from the startup community, participating as mentees.