Dear Representatives of the National Coordination Body for Trade Facilitation, Minister Branislav Nedimovic, Jelena Pavlović, AmCham members, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Thank you for joining us today to examine the progress and celebrate the results of the Coordination Body for Trade Facilitation’s first year of operation. It’s a wonderful opportunity to reflect on the group’s important achievements, as well as an opportunity to chart the next steps in strengthening Serbia’s position in the import and export markets.
The efforts being undertaken by the Coordination Body are helping in this country’s quest to expand its trade opportunities with neighbors, in moving Serbia closer to WTO membership, in putting it on the path toward membership in the European Union . This is why we proudly supported the Serbian Government’s efforts in creating the Trade Facilitation Coordination Body, with a boost from both USAID and the American Chamber of Commerce.
Ultimately though the success of this important institution will depend on the commitment of the western Balkan countries to work together to advance their economic integration – and through this integration, their own countries’ economic growth. The European Union stands as a powerful example of the economic benefits of this integration, and the United States fully supports Serbia’s efforts in this regard. Serbia is a relatively small market, but it has a large leadership role to play in unleashing the potential of a region with more than 20 million people.
We have been pleased to see the National Coordination Body for Trade Facilitation already making progress on important cross-border trade issues during its first year. For example, through agreements with Bosnia and Herzegovina and Macedonia, the National Coordination Body for Trade Facilitation eliminated hurdles related to the export of key commodities that were unnecessarily burdening the private sector in recent years. This is a major step in the right direction, and it is my hope that very soon further collaboration across the region will make trade even easier throughout the region.
The true value of the Coordinating Body is in resolving issues the private sector is forced to confront on almost a daily basis. I am encouraged to hear that special working groups have formed under the Coordination Body and have lively participation from the private sector as well as an ambitious set of action plans, all to be implemented by the end of this year.
I applaud our partners in the Government of Serbia for their vision and their leadership in establishing this platform for trade facilitation. I would like to thank USAID’s Regional Economic Growth project for its support — especially in facilitating public-private dialogue, which is essential to make sure trade reforms work for business. USAID will continue their wide-ranging efforts in bringing together the public and private sectors, which is a great recipe for promoting Serbia’s economic development, creating jobs, and fighting brain drain.
AmCham deserves high praise as well for their laser-like focus on trade facilitation, and for their ongoing efforts to address those challenges faced by businesses large and small. We hope today’s discussions will result in real progress in implementing the Coordination Body’s action plans, and in deepening collaboration between the public and private sector to increase cross-border trade. Knitting together the economies of Serbia and its neighbors will go a long way toward promoting the growth of businesses, here in Serbia and the region, and promoting regional stability, too.