Serbia appears poised to sign a long-awaited free trade agreement with China, according to local news reports.
The agreement will be signed under “the auspices of the Third Forum for International Cooperation of the Belt and Road initiative,” according to Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic, as cited by Serbiamonitor.com, with the prime minister adding that this will “contribute to the intensification of bilateral economic cooperation.”
The agreement will cut customs duties on 90 percent of Serbian exports to China, according to Serbian Minister of Foreign Trade Tomislav Momirović, according to the site, which was citing Bloomberg Asia.
China has increasingly looked to invest in Serbia, focusing largely on the mining sector, with China now seen as the largest foreign investor in the country. This has come in part thanks to a 2009 framework agreement on economic and technological infrastructure cooperation, but cooperation ramped up beginning in 2012 once US Steel backed out of the management of Serbia’s Smederovo Steel Mill. China stepped in, bought the mill for EUR 42 mln and promised an additional EUR 300 mln in investments. Likewise, the current push by China comes after US Rio Tinto seemingly ran afoul of Serbian environmentalists with regard to mining, although Chinese mining companies are not known for being controversy-free.
Photo by Airman 1st Class Philip Bryant, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.