Foreign investments in the Western Balkans are a prerequisite for faster development of the region’s economies, increasing production and export of more sophisticated products, that are enhancing the competitiveness of companies in order to better integrate into the global market, was one of the conclusions of the conference “Western Balkans in the Global Market: New Opportunities for trade and investment. “, organized by OECD in partnership with the WB6 Chamber Investment Forum.
The first of six conferences was held in Belgrade, at the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Serbia (CCIS), with others to follow during the OECD tour of the Western Balkans presenting the individual OECD reports on the prospects of the Western Balkan economies.
As pointed out in the report, foreign direct investment contributes to increasing the production of high value-added products, the application of modern technologies, business models and standards, as well as strengthening the SME sector. Mihailo Vesovic, Director of the CCIS Sector for Strategic Analysis and Analytics emphasized that the report, after this year’s Western Balkans Summit on the Western Balkans in Poznan, is being presented for the first time in our region – in Serbia.
“The study not only looks at the export opportunities of WB6 economies individually but also looks to the region as a whole, defining preconditions, challenges and making recommendations for better utilization of potentials and through a detailed analysis, identifies specific sectors and individual products with the greatest prospects – chances for success in the international market” Vesovic stated.
This concreteness is the special quality of this study, which is an excellent basis for industrial and investment policy makers in how they can establish common value chains in the region. Vesovic said the region is facing challenges that are a direct consequence of uncertainty due to the slowdown in global economic growth. “The slowdowns in our major foreign trade partners directly spill over to the Western Balkan economies,” Vesovic added. He reminded that total exports of all economies in the region last year amounted to $53.1 billion, which is realistically far below the real potential of our economies. The number of exporters is small – only 10 to 20 percent of registered companies in the region sell goods in a foreign market, the structure of export supply is still unfavorable especially in intra-regional trade, and the foreign trade deficit is significant.
“We should strive to export innovative high value products, which requires a lot of investment and structural change in the Western Balkan economies. The WB6 Chamber Investment Forum is dedicated to these key topics with the aim of strengthening our economies, creating a favorable investment climate, promoting investment potential, as well as common value chains in the region as investors view the region as a single investment destination, ”concluded Vesovic.
Marzena Kisielewska, Head of the OECD South East Europe Division, stressed the need to continue implementing reforms in the region, increase investment, support the SME sector, connect foreign investors and local suppliers.
The strategic sectors for investment and further development of the region are agriculture and food, as well as the metal, mechanical and auto industries. Recommendations for improvement in these areas are related to increase of productivity and sustainability of production, investment in modern technologies, adherence to phytosanitary and sanitary standards, improvement of skills and capacities of employees as well as energy efficiency.
A meeting organized by CCIS, as the founding member of WB6 Chamber Investment Forum, and the OECD brought together foreign investors, domestic companies, government representatives and OECD experts. OECD experts presented the report, and a panel discussion was held dedicated to successfully attracting investment, boosting exports and economic integration in the region.
After Belgrade, the presentation will be held in other chambers of commerce in the Western Balkans, as part of a partnership between the OECD and the WB6 Chamber Investment Forum.