Our country has shown that it is capable of coping with all difficulties
At the very beginning, I would like to emphasize the importance of holding this conference, which has become recognizable as an event that closes the current year with conclusions about the political, business and social environment of Serbia, but also offers indications of what awaits us in the year ahead. The last few years have shown us that we must constantly adapt to the challenges we face. That is why I am especially happy that today we have the opportunity to talk about everything we managed to do in the previous period, even though Serbia, like many other countries, is faced with the challenges brought by wars and the global economic crisis. Very often we do not influence these challenges, but we feel them on our skin, and we fight with them in order to ensure a better quality of life for the citizens, and a predictable business environment for the economy. In a year marked by wars and global crises, we must be proud of the results achieved by all of us together – citizens, the economy, representatives of state institutions. We continued with ref orms aimed at improving the business environment, attracting foreign investments and supporting domestic entrepreneurs. Our commitment to strengthening the country’s economic structure is key in ensuring sustainable growth and creating better conditions for the life of every individual in Serbia. The work of the Ministry of Trade is aimed at achieving key goals – improving the quality of life of citizens and improving the business environment through strengthening the trade sector.
In 2024, we will place special emphasis on activities aimed at further building an efficient and networked consumer protection system
The initiative “Bolja cena” represents one of the most successful projects we have implemented, within which products with reduced prices are easily available throughout the country and enables our citizens to achieve significant savings in household budgets of several thousand dinars per month. We are actively talking with representatives of the private sector through the formed National Coordinating Body for Trade Facilitation. In a short time, a large number of taxes and fees were abolished, as well as certain unnecessary procedures at border crossings, which contributed to cutting the time for export and import of certain food products in half, and the direct costs of taxes and fees reduced in some cases by 80%. This has resulted in an increase in trade between Serbia, North Macedonia and Albania, which is an excellent direction to go when we talk about the priorities of work and our body in the coming period. The Ministry of Trade has placed high on its agenda the topic of reforms aimed at facilitating business for our companies and increasing the GDP of our country. The Government of the Republic of Serbia strongly supports all economic and trade processes aimed at joining the EU and strengthening regional economic cooperation. We will continue to work together with representatives of the private sector to propose measures and activities to simplify and speed up the flow of goods and services. We recently signed a Protocol on cooperation with the Ministry of Education on educating school-age children about consumer rights. We are witnessing the changes that are happening on a global level because young people are growing up with constant access to digital tools that certainly affect their culture and socialization, and therefore it is necessary to ensure the continuous education of school-age children about consumer rights. In 2024, we will place special emphasis on activities aimed at further building an efficient and networked consumer protection system. Among the priorities, the protection of consumers when shopping on the Internet is highlighted, bearing in mind the expansion of online shopping. We will continue to strengthen the market inspection sector, primarily through the digitization of the work of this service. We want to position the market inspection as a partner to the business community. When it comes to foreign trade and economic relations with foreign countries, I am particularly proud of the reached Free Trade Agreement with China, which will enable a new large wave of investments in our country. The agreement on free trade between Serbia and the People’s Republic of China will open new perspectives in economic relations and will contribute to the additional strengthening of trade ties with China. A large number of agricultural producers, especially those dealing with fruit, will be able to export their products to China without customs duties. The agreement is not only important for farmers, but also for other parts of the Serbian economy, such as the food industry. The agreement included a large number of products from the mechanical industry, such as iron and steel, as well as products from the pharmaceutical industry.
I am particularly proud of the reached Free Trade Agreement with China, which will enable a new large wave of investments in our country
Exports to China have reached an enviable $1.3 billion per year, and now that the agreement has entered into force, we expect our exports to China to exceed $2 billion in the first years of its implementation. In the coming period, we will continue to open new markets for our businessmen through the conclusion of new free trade agreements, primarily with the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, which will open up incredible opportunities for marketing mainly agricultural products. Next year, Serbia will preside over the Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA). The importance of the CEFTA market for the Serbian economy is enormous. CEFTA is our second trading partner after the EU, with a share in our total exchange of more than 18 percent. Serbia’s presidency will be primarily focused on consolidating and strengthening the implementation of the agreement, work on intensifying the trade exchange of the CEFTA signatory countries, and it will also provide us with the opportunity to make the topics of digitization and electronic trade among the priorities of the presidency. The Government and the Ministry of Trade firmly stand on the point of view that free economic regional cooperation is extremely important, and this is shown by the fact that in the first nine months of this year, Serbia achieved close to 5 billion euros in trade with CEFTA. Looking ahead, in 2024 we have clear plans and ambitious goals that we want to achieve. At the very end, I would like to underline that the Government of the Republic of Serbia will continue to provide a favorable business climate for our businessmen, and that the Ministry of Trade will do everything in order to win new markets that will enable the growth of the social product in order to improve the welfare and living standards of our population. In conclusion, I would like to emphasize that Serbia is not only a witness to world challenges, but an active participant in creating positive changes. Our country has shown that it is capable of coping with all difficulties, and our commitment to preserving peace, stability and improving living conditions remains unchanged.