_ Snezana Bjelotomic. Belgrade, 21 January 2019.
A free trade agreement between Serbia and the Eurasian Economic Union was thought to be one of the most important agreements that Serbia and Russian Federation would sign during the official visit of President Putin to Serbia.
This agreement was supposed to replace the three bilateral trade agreements that Serbia had with Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, and in addition, to include Armenia and Kyrgyzstan. A few days before Putin’s arrival, it was announced that the duty-free export was applicable only to very few products including special types of cheeses, cigarettes, alcoholic beverages and sugar.
However, the agreement was not signed because, as the Serbian Minister of Trade, Tourism and Telecommunications, Rasim Ljajic, says for the Danas daily, “the members of the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) have not reached an agreement between themselves.”
“We agreed on the general text of the agreement and some other issues important for trade, including the rules regarding product origin, protective mechanisms, and direct sales, which will be of importance to our companies. We have not, however, agreed on several customs tariffs,” Ljajic said, adding that representatives of the Eurasian Economic Union allowed duty-free exports of fruit brandy.
“We asked for a quota of 2,000 tonnes of duty-free cigarettes, 1,000 tonnes of special types of cheeses and 50,000 litres of cognac. We have failed to reach an agreement on these, because we were told that Armenia is against duty-free imports of cognacs since they produce theirown cognac. Belarus opposes duty-free imports of cheese and also flat out rejected the idea of duty-free export of our sugar,” Ljajic notes.
He says that a regular Eurasian Economic Union meeting at the vice-presidential level will be held today, and one of the items on the agenda is a free trade agreement with Serbia.
The value of the total export of Serbia to these five countries is slightly over one billion euro, of which 995 million is export to Russia. On the other hand, the import of Serbia from these countries is valued at 1.8 billion dollars, of which 1.58 billion is import from Russia. The combined markets of these five countries have about 185 million consumers and represent a great potential for exports of Serbian agricultural products. According to trade agreements with Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, almost 99 percent of products, that Serbia exports, are in duty-free regime, and negotiations are underway to abolish import duties on remaining products.