Serbia sees CIIE as great opportunity for business, bilateral ties

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This photo taken on Nov. 3, 2023 shows an electronic poster of the 6th China International Import Expo (CIIE) in Xuhui District of Shanghai, east China. [Photo/Xinhua]

The Serbian delegation sees the upcoming China International Import Expo (CIIE) in Shanghai as a key gateway for Serbian businesses to the Chinese market, especially bearing in mind the fruitful cooperation between the two countries within the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the recently signed free-trade agreement (FTA).

Ahead of their trip to China, members of Serbia's high-level delegation Tomislav Momirovic, minister of Domestic and Foreign Trade, and Mihailo Vesovic, director of the division for strategic analyses, services and internationalization at the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, shared their expectations for the CIIE and the success of China-Serbia trade ties.

'The biggest fair'

Momirovic told Xinhua that Serbia's highest state delegation, the prime minister, several other ministers, and a large number of businessmen, will attend the CIIE, "the world's biggest fair," to support local companies and draw the Serbian and Chinese economies closer together.

"Our goal is to keep up with the growth of the Chinese economy, we aim to be a part of that success story. Our goal is to additionally interconnect our two economies, to place as many of our products as possible in this vast market," he said.

Vesovic said that Serbia, a partner country of this year's CIIE, is participating because of the presence of goods from all over the world and China's policy of opening up towards imports.

"We will have the largest expo so far, practically two expos, one dedicated to businesses, which will include 25 companies, first of all from the food industry, including juices, wines, pasta, fresh and processed fruit, and also a transport company, which is of extreme importance, because logistics is a precondition for the desired effects of trade cooperation," Vesovic said.

He explained that as a partner country, Serbia, at this year's CIIE, "will present the cultural and other values of Serbia."

Opportunities in China's opening-up

Vesovic commented that this import expo, which is promoting China's open economy, is taking place "at an ideal moment, right after the signing of the FTA" between Serbia and China at the recent third Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation.

With the FTA, Momirovic said that over 10,000 Serbian products will become available through customs free-import to Chinese consumers from next year.

"I think this is of immense importance for the Republic of Serbia, to extend its reach to the world's biggest and fastest-growing market, under such privileged terms," he said.

Noting China's dedication to the principles of an open world economy, Momirovic said that this is of interest to China, Serbia, and "all countries oriented towards the open global economy who wish to do business in the open market and to enable their citizens to have cheaper products of higher quality."

"We have to cooperate and communicate and work together to turn the economy into a connecting bond between us, to make space for the businessmen to generate GDP (gross domestic product) growth. In this regard, we are following China," Momirovic said.

China's incredible growth rates over the past ten years have carried the global economic development, he noted, saying that China's striving towards an open global economy is in its own interest, as well as Serbia's and that of other countries.

Anyone with intelligence would understand all this and recognize this opportunity, Momirovic said.

Vesovic said that the FTA offers incredible potential for investing in Serbia, especially in production capacities in the food industry, for companies from China and the European Union alike, which will contribute to Serbia's economic development.

"For Serbia, this agreement means a way to go further from regional and European markets to the world's most important market," Vesovic said.

Developing with BRI

The BRI has been welcomed by European countries, Vesovic said, adding that for small economies, such as Serbia's, which is searching for its place in the global economy, the initiative represents an interesting path for development.

"The Belt and Road Initiative is a long-term project that proves China's intention to be an open economy, showing that China does not make peace with geopolitical bloc-like economic policies. Moreover, it demonstrates that China understands well that being competitive requires extremely well-developed logistical gateways," Vesovic said.

Participation in the initiative makes Serbia a more attractive investment and tourism destination, Vesovic said.

Momirovic noted that the two biggest industrial chains in Serbia are owned by Chinese corporations -- Zijin in the Bor District and HBIS in the city of Smederevo.

"Those two companies have such an influence on our economy that their contribution to our GDP is reflected in double digits. Our goal is to activate additional potential through the Belt and Road Initiative and the cooperation that we have developed," he said.

Momirovic further said that thanks to the cooperation within the BRI and the FTA, Serbia has become more attractive for both domestic and foreign investors who wish to export goods to the Chinese market.

"We are working on the Mihajlo Pupin industrial park in Borca with the Chinese company CRBC ... Be aware that everybody is interested in this Free-Trade Agreement. Across Europe people come here, asking to invest so that they would be able to export to China customs-free," he said.

Momirovic said that the Serbia-China FTA will repeat the success that the countries already achieved in the field of infrastructure.

"We have rebuilt our country together, constructed hundreds of kilometers of highways, and the fastest railway in Southeast Europe, and we made the best of our cooperation so far," he said.

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