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news 21 May 13

Bosnia Resists EU Call For Free Trade

Foreign Trade Minister says Bosnia will not accept a customs-free import regime with EU states despite pressure from Brussels.

Elvira M. Jukic
BIRN
Sarajevo

Foreign Trade Minister Mirko Sarovic on May 20 said Bosnia will not accept a continued customs-free import regime with Croatia after it joins the EU, or extend the same regime to all EU states, despite calls from Brussels.

The minister said it would disadvantage Bosnia, and the country has no obligation to make such concessions.

“We have an interim trade agreement with the EU which we're implementing and respecting but when any new member state [like Croatia] joins the EU, additional negotiations and protocols must be done,” Sarovic said.

He was referring to Bosnia's existing Central European Free Trade Association agreement with Croatia, which will not be valid after Croatia becomes an EU member.

After Croatia joins the EU on July 1, Bosnia has been asked to continue its free-trade arrangements with Croatia and extend them to all EU states.

Bosnia says this would damage domestic producers. “That would be completely unfavourable for a weak and fragile economy like Bosnia and Herzegovina's, if additional liberalization was done,” Sarovic noted.

In April, Stefano Sannino, head of the EU's General Directorate for Enlargement, requested that Bosnia allow Croatia and other EU member states to export goods without customs from July 1.

Bosnia has said that instead of extending the same free-trade privileges that Croatia now enjoys to the entire EU, it will treat Croatia as it does all other EU countries.

Sarovic said free trade would endanger domestic producers, especially producers of plant and animal products, including meat and milk.

“We respect our neighbours and want to keep the trade level with them as until now,” Sarovic said. “But we are looking at our interest and it is very clear.”

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