Erdoğan's upcoming visit to Serbia to boost trade ties
Turkish and Serbian business communities have high hopes from President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's upcoming visit to Belgrade on Tuesday.
Serbian Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Marko Cadez told Anadolu Agency that certain amendments to the free-trade agreement (FTA) between the two countries are on the cards during the visit.
"The amendments to the FTA were harmonized last week and will become official during the upcoming visit of the Turkish state and business delegation to Serbia," Cadez said.
According to the Turkish Statistical Institute (TurkStat), trade volume between the two countries has been continuously growing since the FTA was signed in 2009; it shot up to nearly $900 million in 2016 from $362 million in 2009.
But Cadez said there still remained "an enormous untapped potential in both countries".
Further liberalization of trade in agricultural and food products will help increase bilateral trade, he said.
Turkey's export to Serbia stood at $442 million while its import from the country was more than $284 million in January-August 2017, TurkStat data reveals.
Turkish Foreign Ministry says Ankara sees Serbia as a key country for regional stability and supports its European integration process.
More than 70 Turkish companies have a total investment volume of $113 million in Serbia, mainly in textiles, food and construction sectors.
Cadez said amendment to the FTA would bring into Serbia new factories and facilities, and new export channels, whereas Turkish investors would get profitable businesses in return.
"It is important to start with joint ventures in production for third markets, which brings benefits to both sides," he said.
Aleksandar Medjedovic, president of the Turkish-Serbian Business Council of the Foreign Economic Relations Board, said: "Serbia attracts the highest amount of direct investment in the region."
Medjedovic agreed with Cadez that Turkish and Serbian companies could work in third countries, particularly in Eastern Europe.
Serbia can become a springboard for Turkish companies seeking to expand in Europe, he said.
He added that Serbia could also serve as a good production base for Turkish companies, thanks to its low labor costs and government incentives.
Erdoğan will visit Serbia between Monday and Wednesday to discuss bilateral relations including trade. He is scheduled to meet his Serbian counterpart and the country's parliament speaker. The two countries' leaders are also expected to attend a Turkey-Serbia business forum, according to the president's press office Saturday.