Croatia is the youngest member of the European Union; we became its 28th member in July 2013. And last year, we celebrated our 25th anniversary of independence. But historically speaking, Croatia is an old European country. The first Croatian king was crowned in 925. Today, Croatia is a modern and open middle-European country with lots to offer in fields such as business, investment, culture, gastronomy and tourism.
In 2015, 15 million tourists visited Croatia to enjoy its natural beauty, try delicious food, taste exquisite wines and see its cultural heritage. This number is even more notable if you consider that Croatia has only 4.3 million inhabitants. Meanwhile, estimates for 2016 show it will be a record year, with more than 16 million tourists choosing Croatia as their vacation destination. The number of tourists from Canada is rising every year, too, by an average of 20 per cent. In 2015, almost 100,000 Canadians visited Croatia, and that number jumped by 26 per cent between June and August 2016. Just in those three months, almost 60,000 Canadians visited Croatia. And still, we welcome more.
Commodity exchange between Croatia and Canada, however, has room to grow. In 2015, exports from Croatia to Canada totalled more than $41 million and exports from Canada to Croatia amounted to $17 million. Croatia’s main exports were medications, electrical transformers and aluminum foil. Croatia’s main imports from Canada were medications, dried leguminous vegetables and aircraft parts.
One of the reasons for our modest bilateral trade is the significant geographical distance between our countries. For that reason, we believe there may be more promise in the exchange of services. Croatia has a strong information technology sector and innovative companies that deliver unique and useful solutions for government-to-citizen, business-to-business and business-to-consumer platforms.
In terms of Canadian exports to Croatia, it is important to stress that Croatia, as part of the EU, is part of a market of 500 million customers. Croatia supported the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement because we saw benefits for both sides. Investments would be most beneficial for Canadian companies in Croatia, especially in the highly profitable tourism sector. There are a growing number of international tourists and more and more demand for specific kinds of vacations, including those centred around golf, wellness, health tourism and adventure, so there is much room for new investments.
Croatia offers interested investors a investment projects from several sectors. One example is the building of an LNG terminal on the island Krk, a project that the EU considers crucial for Europe.
Croatia is interested in attracting a substantial share of investment in greenfield projects, manufacturing and export-oriented activities as well as high-value prospects that will create the basis for long-term continuous economic growth. Foreign investors can invest in private, public or public-private projects.
The Croatian Chamber of Economy promotes private projects and for that reason, it has created an extensive investment database. With respect to public projects, their investment plans include infrastructure projects such as the reconstruction, modernization and development of seaports, airports, other transport and trade integration projects, tourism, greenfield and brownfield projects and energy projects, including the development of an existing hydro power-plant system.
Attracting foreign direct investment is one of our most important strategic goals and priorities. To create an attractive legal framework and competitive business environment, a comprehensive set of measures and legislative amendments has been successfully implemented by the Croatian government. In addition, the Agency for Investments and Competitiveness has been established to facilitate investment from potential investors. As a result, Croatia has one of the most attractive Investment Promotion Acts in all of Europe.
By constantly improving the investment climate, and adopting agreements to avoid double taxation with more than 50 countries, Canada included, Croatia offers many incentives to potential investors. These include tax incentives, incentives for employment and education, and additional incentives for capital expenses and labour-intensive investment projects.
In close co-operation with Canadian-Croatian Chamber of Commerce (in Toronto), the Croatian Embassy in Canada tries every day to help Croatians export to the Canadian market. Canadians can already buy chocolates and sweets from Kraš; vegeta, our famous condiment that is a mixture of salt, spices and vegetables; Croatian wines and hard liquors such as rakija; and footwear by Borovo. Conversely, Canada’s Algoma Central Corporation purchased five ships from Croatia’s Uljanik Grupa Shipyard. Canada’s
Vermilion Energy Inc. got the licences for the extraction of several different hydrocarbons and Canada’s Dundee 360 and Dalmi Resorts, together with Croatian partners, invested $750 million in building tourism facilities in the Dalmatian cities of Primosten and Cavtat.
We welcome more such investment and look forward to realizing our mutual potential.
Marica Matkovic is the ambassador of Croatia. Reach her at email@example.com or (613) 562-7820.