Bosnia-Canada trade: Plenty of untapped potential

| March 22, 2016 | 0 Comments
Mostar, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, is one of the most visited places in the world. (Photo: Embassy of Bosnia and Herzegovina)

Mostar, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, is one of the most visited places in the world. (Photo: Embassy of Bosnia and Herzegovina)

Bosnia and Herzegovina is a heart-shaped land. This is not just a marketing motto or allusion to the appearance of the country, it is also a hint of what to expect from the country and the people who live in it.
Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) is situated in the Balkans in the space where the winds blow from the East and West, where civilizations encountered each other and made important decisions. No matter how far back in time we go, there is no lack of significant events, places and people in the nation’s history.
Today, the fragments of this dynamic history can be seen at every step — from the diverse customs and culture to the rich Balkan, Oriental and Mediterranean cuisine.
As a country, Bosnia and Herzegovina has passed the initial and most difficult part of its transition to a market economy. The doors are wide open to investors, especially in the sectors of tourism, agriculture, energy and infrastructure. Further, there are opportunities in renewable energy through construction of mini-power plants. There is also huge potential for hydro-electric projects. BiH also requires infrastructure in the form of a network of highways, which is another opportunity for investors from Canada.
In 2015, Bosnia and Herzegovina exported goods and services around the world worth $7.16 billion, which is a 3.5-percent increase from the previous year, while imports were $12.63 billion, 2.1 percent less than the previous year. Despite positive trends and expected GDP growth of 3.2 percent in 2015, it is clear a long recovery period awaits my country’s economy.
The amount of goods exchanged between BiH and Canada is lower than it should be, although it does give us a chance to think about which direction to take in the future. In 2015, Bosnia and Herzegovina exported various types of lightweight tools and raw materials (disodium carbonate) and modern furniture made of wood, with a total value of more than $9 million.
Canada exported tools (flywheels and pulleys), chainsaw blades, equipment and machinery parts, beans and clothing worth more than $10 million to BiH. BiH wishes to enhance co-operation with Canada through increased expansion and sales of healthy and “ethnic” foods, high-quality wines and stronger exports of wooden furniture.
The Agency for Foreign Investment Promotion in Bosnia and Herzegovina has more than 200 projects that are ready for implementation.
In 2016, there will be planned privatization of nearly 50 companies. Potential investors will be offered a chance to buy Aluminium Mostar, a government-owned producer of aluminum, and the Sarajevo Tobacco Factory, as well as some other companies. Investors should be aware that  conditions of purchasing property in BiH are the same for foreign and domestic individuals, and that both have the same ownership rights. Foreign investors are also generally exempt from customs duties.
Bosnia and Herzegovina is not a country whose size meets the requirements of big investors, but its advantage is its geographical location, which allows it to be a regional centre that would allow Canadian investors to expand and service other markets in the region. Companies doing business in Bosnia and Herzegovina have free access to the market of southeast Europe through the CEFTA, as well as Turkey, a market with 100 million inhabitants, with which BiH has a free-trade agreement.
BiH saw impressive growth in tourism last year, with visits jumping 28.2 percent. The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has placed Bosnia and Herzegovina among the top 10 countries exhibiting dynamic growth.
The country’s many attractions make it difficult to sort out what has led to the increase. Is it the towns with diverse multicultural offerings, the beautiful Olympic mountains, the healing spas with medicinal mineral water or the Mediterranean landscape of the short, but beautiful coast of the Adriatic Sea? Whatever the case may be, tourism will be a generator of development in the years to come.

Koviljka Spiric is ambassador of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Reach her at info@bhembassy.com or 613-236-0028 ext. 5.

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Koviljka Spiric is ambassador of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Reach her at info@bhembassy.com or 613-236-0028 ext. 5.

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