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Interview

Visit by President of The BiH Foreign Trade Chamber FTC Nemanja Vasic, 26. 02. 2015.

 

INTERVIEW: PRESIDENT OF BIH FOREIGN TRADE CHAMBER NEMANJA VASIĆ

 

Interviewed by: Ena Čolpa

SARAJEVO, March 11 (ONASA) – President of the BiH Foreign Trade Chamber (FTC) Nemanja Vasić in the interview for the ONASA Agency, among other things, talks about results of foreign trade of BiH with the world in 2014, benefits of the Free Trade Agreement between BiH and member states of EFTA, cooperation with the diplomatic -consular network of BiH …

ONASA: This week were presented data on foreign trade of BiH with the world for 2014. Are you generally satisfied with these results and what trends can be expected this year?

VASIĆ: Given that results show that foreign trade with the world has increased, we should be satisfied. However, the fact is that the BiH deficit has increased, which amounts to about 6.8 billion KM. Significantly higher imports recorded in relation to exports of goods on the world market for us are not satisfactory. If we observe import and export quarterly, it is evident that in the first and fourth quarter of the last year was recorded an increase, but in the second and third quarter decline, which was to be expected due to the catastrophic floods that affected BiH. According to statistics, in 2014 BiH exported goods worth 8.939.844.544 KM, while imports of goods amounted to 15.789.140.137 KM. We expect to achieve better results this year, and to achieve this objective it is necessary to adapt the legislation. Also, we expect a lot from the EU program which planned inflow of funds for the region in the amount of 15 billion euros, and out of that amount BiH would receive about 500 million euros, intended for economic stimulus.

ONASA: To what extent is the Chamber involved in activities of finding solutions in trade with Croatia and in your opinion, will barriers to the export of products from BiH to the EU soon be eliminated?

VASIĆ: It should be noted that we can no longer view Croatia as before, because now it is also one of the EU countries. Therefore, all barriers and benefits that we have towards the EU, we have towards Croatia as well. Opening the borders to Croatia for goods imported from this country would mean the opening of borders for goods from the EU, which would be disastrous for our economy. The fact is that Croatia has much better conditions for business, and would thus “suffocate” business in BiH. Namely, the Agreement we have with the EU has defined that goods exported from BiH have a duty, while goods imported from the EU do not have to have a duty. We also had the CEFTA Agreement on free trade, in which Croatia and Serbia took advantage of benefits received by our country, and we were thus prevented to reach the level of companies in the region. With the EU accession Croatia has moved a good number of companies to BiH, for example, Meggle to Bihać, Podravka to Prnjavor, Gavrilović moved a part of the production to Grude, .. If this process is disrupted and if the free trade is enabled on the BiH territory, that would destroy our production. The pressure of Croatia to change this Agreement, namely to cease its validity, is enormous. When it comes to exports to Croatia and the EU, the problem is that the initiative for the opening of a laboratory that would perform the inspection of products of animal origin did not continue. Our companies comply with the standards for export to the EU, but the state does not have the ability, that is, did not fulfill conditions to approve the export.

ONASA: Is there a possibility of a more significant export of BiH products to the Russian market, given that Russia has banned the import of products from the EU?

VASIĆ: The biggest obstacle is that the procedure of export of goods to Russia is quite complicated. Their commissions need to inspect our facilities to adopt a list of facilities that are allowed to export. We have sent a request for the arrival of these inspections, and 15 days ago we have received the answer that they are coming at the end of the year. That, unfortunately, means that they are not in a hurry.

ONASA: Russia is, evidently, interested in import of BiH products of animal origin. Do you think that the arrival of the inspection of the Customs Alliance will be positive for BiH producers, especially for dairy?

VASIĆ : Standards for the export of goods to Russia are somewhat stricter than those required by the EU countries. In any case, we hope that most companies will meet the criteria of the veterinary inspection.

ONASA: Since the beginning of this year in force has been and the Free Trade Agreement between BiH and the EFTA countries. To what extent have BiH producers started to take advantage of this agreement? Which products are already exported to markets of these countries?

VASIĆ: We have the agreement with the EFTA countries which is almost the same as the agreement we have with the EU countries, it is also asymmetrical. Therefore, the same agreement and the same problems are related to it. Until the construction of laboratories we still will not be able to export, because the criteria for allowing imports of goods are similar. It is important to note that Switzerland imports as much as 60 percent of food products, and that is a great pity that we cannot use this opportunity right now. Apart from Switzerland, in a similar situation are Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. BiH’s chance is exactly the export of food products, besides, of course, the furniture industry, products of wood industry, and industry of paper, wood and metal, where we have recorded a surplus in foreign trade operations.

ONASA: FTC BiH in the past organized attendance of BiH businessmen on a number of trade fairs abroad. What are your plans in this regard for 2015? Do direct meetings of businessmen at trade fairs result in concrete cooperation? Can you mention an example?

VASIĆ: FTC BiH in its program has planned visits of businessmen to trade fairs in the world, but also to local ones. It is a way to promote goods from BiH in the world. This year we have the Technology Fair in Hanover, Food and Tourism Fair in Split, General Trade Fair in Tirana, Fruits and Vegetables Fair in Berlin, Organic Products Fair in Nuremberg and Food Fair ANUGA2015.

ONASA: The Chamber is an active participant in solving problems related to the scandal “TUŠ”. Do you have information on the stage of the resolution of this problem and what are odds that suppliers will succeed to collect their claims?

VASIĆ: Our obligation was to support companies that have problems with “TUŠ”, but it is not in our power to solve this problem. What we can do and what we have done is to apply pressure, to advise suppliers how to run the process, and to try to put pressure on authorities to take action on this issue. I am sure that this situation will have a court ending, because it is not something that can be achieved by an agreement.

ONASA: These days, information emerged in media, that the Slovenian company Intermerkur Nova is also in a similar situation as the company “TUŠ”. How do you comment the fact that this company has already launched preliminary bankruptcy proceedings, and do you believe that suppliers will experience a similar fate as suppliers of “TUŠ”?

VASIĆ: It is possible. Slovenians obviously have worked out a model how to take money from BiH and thus ruin our companies. Also, in the Republika Srpska we had a case with the company Alpos that through the sale of their goods lost 18 million KM with the help of the parent company in Slovenia.

ONASA: What is the cooperation of the BiH Foreign Trade Chamber with the diplomatic and consular network of BiH and in which segments are you planning to improve the cooperation?

VASIĆ: Unfortunately, we have more meetings with ambassadors of other countries than with the ambassadors of our country. There is a rule to have a meeting with representatives of the Chamber prior to a departure of our ambassadors to another country. When visiting trade fairs or conferences in other countries, representatives of the Chamber are required to contact ambassadors of BiH in order to achieve better coordination, which is not at a high level at the moment.

ONASA: What are priorities of your work, as the President of the BiH Foreign Trade Chamber, in the coming period?

VASIĆ: Since the Chamber is funded through mandatory membership, we are practically trying to achieve cooperation with the industry in a way that is of interest for the industry. We are working hard on self-financing programs, especially in the sector of education.