Excerpt from the report compiled by the CCIS’ Sector for Strategic Analysis, Services and Internationalization
Economic and trade relations with Hungary, which was and remains Serbia’s strategic partner, both in the political and economic sense, have significant prospects for growth and mutual benefit.
According to data collated by the National Bank of Serbia, in the period from 2010 to 2021, investments by Hungarian residents in the Republic of Serbia amounted to one billion euros, which made Hungary the ninth biggest foreign investor in Serbia in the observed period.
Economic cooperation between the two countries is constantly on the rise. In the first quarter of this year alone, Hungarian investments in our country totalled 7.9 million euros.
Trade between the two countries is growing year on year too. Last year, it amounted to 2,291.9 million euros, which is an 18% increase compared to 2020. Total Serbian exports to Hungary in that period amounted to 1,088.9 million euros, while Hungarian exports to Serbia amounted to 1,203 million euros. The external trade deficit in 2021 was 114.1 million euros, and the import-to-export ratio was 90.5 percent, which is an increase of 19.8 percentage points compared to 2020.
The Serbian economy needs a more active export strategy, among other things, helped by participation in the most important trade fairs in Hungary
In the period from January to December 2021, Serbia mostly exported the following to Hungary – ignition lead sets, other sets for vehicles; multi-component electronic integrated circuits; maize, except for maize seed; pipes and hoses (rigid, made of plastic); calcium phosphates; external pneumatic tires and others.
In the same period, Serbia mostly imported the following products from Hungary – unclassified goods by the Customs Tariff – goods in storage; gas oils (for other purposes, S=<0.001%, without biodiesel); medicines for retail sale; electricity; conductors (voltage=<1000V, with connectors) and others.
In its report on economic cooperation between the Republic of Serbia and the Republic of Hungary, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Serbia states that in order to increase Serbian exports to Hungary, the trade between the two countries should be more balanced.
To achieve these goals, it is vital to develop infrastructure, more precisely continue with the project of overhauling the Budapest-Belgrade railroad, which is financed by the Chinese fund CIEZ. Joint investments based on the principles of long-term forms of cooperation, establishing production cooperation, the expansion of the list of products for export and the intensification of cooperation in promising sectors are also required.
Good ties between the two chambers greatly support the dynamic development of business contacts
The Serbian economy needs a more active export strategy, among other things, helped by participation in the most important trade fairs in Hungary, as well as in specialized exhibitions where selected branches of our economy would be presented.
According to the data collated by the Agency for Business Registers of the Republic of Serbia, 655 active business entities, which are majority-owned by Hungarian citizens and legal entities registered in Hungary, are active in the Republic of Serbia (as of 05/06/2022).
Recent history of the cooperative economy
In February 2004, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Serbia signed a cooperation agreement with the Hungarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which envisages performing joint activities to develop bilateral economic relations through the organization of business meetings between companies from the two countries, the exchange of economic information, and cooperation regarding the participation of the two chambers’ members at trade fairs and exhibitions, as well as holding seminars in Serbia and Hungary. The Department for Cooperation with the Republic of Serbia (headquarters in Szeged) was established on the premises of the Csongrad Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Under the patronage of the Hungarian Ministry of National Development and Economy, the Hungarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry established the Hungarian-Serbian Chamber of Commerce at the constitutive session on May 28, 2009, in Kecskemet.
The Hungarian-Serbian Business Council (PS for short) was founded in 2006 and it gathers the largest Hungarian companies, some of which are already operating in Serbia (OTP Bank, MOL, Megaplast). It was founded to connect the Hungarian and Serbian business communities, and above all, to help the export of Hungarian goods and services to Serbia.
The Hungarian side informed their Serbian counterparts that the Hungarian government has a very important goal of increasing its economic presence in the surrounding countries, including the Republic of Serbia, not only in the segment of trade but also in investments. The Hungarian government is also keen to improve the Serbian- Hungarian trade. To that end, on October 28, 2015, the Hungarian National Trading House A.D. (MNTK) opened its first representative office in Serbia in Belgrade, which covers the entire Serbian market. In parallel with that, a business entity – a daughter company of MNTK called MNTK Central-European Network for the Development of Trade d.o.o. opened regional offices in Novi Sad and Subotica at the end of 2015. The goal of opening these regional offices was to assist small and medium-sized enterprises on both sides.
The Hungarian Export-Import Bank and the Hungarian Export Credit Insurance Agency (EKSIM Bank) are still open for financing and insurance of exports to the Republic of Serbia. The Hungarian side informed the Serbian side that EKSIM Bank has opened a representative office in Belgrade, so it can contribute even more effectively to the further development of trade and economic relations between the two countries, and indirectly between the countries of the Western Balkan region.
The parties agreed that good ties between the two chambers greatly support the dynamic development of business contacts. The Hungarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MTIK) particularly underlines the Hungarian-Serbian relationship, and its goal is to develop bilateral business relations more efficiently. The Western Balkans Section of MTIK, which has been active since 2012, covers the entire Hungarian territory and has 70 members, has organized numerous business forums and visits to Serbia in previous years.
In November of 2021, a delegation of the Pčinj and Jablanica districts visited Hungary, and on that occasion, a Memorandum of Cooperation was signed between the Jablanica and Pčinj District Chamber of Commerce and the Hungarian Chamber of Commerce. In December 2021, the Hungarian Chamber of Commerce opened an office in Leskovac.
Serbia-Hungary Business Forum
On the occasion of the 11th Session of the Joint Commission for Economic Cooperation of the Republic of Serbia with Hungary, the Serbia-Hungary Business Forum was held on June 4, 2021. In cooperation with the Hungarian Export Promotion Agency, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Serbia organized a Business Forum and bilateral meetings of Serbian and Hungarian business people on the Chamber’s premises.
The participants of the Business Forum were addressed by the co-chairman of the Joint Commission, Andjelka Atanasković, Serbian Economy Minister, on behalf of the Republic of Serbia, and Péter Szijjártó, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade of the Republic of Hungary.
The business delegation from Hungary consisted of companies from various sectors, including the agricultural and food industry, tourism, metal-processing industry, as well as the IT and health sectors.