- Bilateral trade limited to USD 65 million; what is the reason behind the low volume of trade?
Indeed, the bilateral trade between our two countries is quite modest. Even without in-depth analysis it is not difficult to identify some of the major conditions that greatly determined such situation in the past. Firstly, Bosnia and Herzegovina and India are two geographically remote countries. Logically, we all trade the most with our neighbouring countries and traditional business ties are established primarily with business people from those countries. Secondly, I am not sure we know much about each other in a business sense. We in Bosnia and Herzegovina have limited knowledge of doing business in India and it may very well be the reason that our companies therefore either were not aware of the possibilities or just could not afford specific market research activities. Last but not the least, it is not impossible at all that we, at the institutional level, have not completed our job in facilitating business activities such as removing institutional or systemic barriers if they exist. Business associations need to direct us where this support and facilitation would be needed the most.
- Is the cause a weak banking network between the two countries and lack of credit facilities?
You actually named one of the most frequent impediments to business in general. I cannot state that I am personally aware of such particular problem for business activities between Bosnia and Herzegovina and India but I would not be surprised if that were the case.
- Is it also due to the lack of awareness of business potential between the two countries?
There is no doubt that business potentials of the two economies are not fully disclosed or acknowledged bilaterally. From the angle of Bosnia and Herzegovina, India is a vast economy that for small businesses may even seem out of reach. Therefore, they not only fail to comprehend potentials but rarely engage in serious search of possibilities. On the side of India, the angle is bit different but the result is the same. Namely, Bosnia and Herzegovina is remote and small market. Businesses take serious activities when they preliminary estimate that targeted market is of sufficient size or absorbing capacities. At first glance, for most Indian companies Bosnia and Herzegovina probably does not qualify for such big and serious business activities. Still, from Indian side I believe Bosnia and Herzegovina should not be seen or targeted as individual market, whatsoever. Due to its central location in the South-Eastern Europe and a network of preferential trade agreements in this part of the world it can play a dual role, i.e. regional hub and a gate to European market.
- Third Meeting of the Joint Committee on Trade and Economic Cooperation was held in Sarajevo in September 2012. Thereafter was there no meeting of Joint Committee held?
Thank you for this question. I find very important to share with you some general views and experiences of Bosnia and Herzegovina in this regard. First of all, we are a very small country with a very small administration. This is quite limiting factor for us in maintaining the undisturbed dynamics of economic and trade cooperation with great number of countries at the same time. On the other hand, in these turbulent and austerity times the cost-effectiveness of such events for us is rather questionable. Therefore, we have done various analysis and tried to contemplate options so as to enable more frequent contact with desired trade and economic cooperation partners which would, at the same time, meet the effectiveness criteria in both substance and costs.
The results of the analysis were quite revealing for us. For example, during the latest full office term (parliamentary elections are held every four years) we have had approximately four joint committees’ meetings per year. That is big number of meetings taking into account that the Unit I am in charge of is also responsible for many other issues (e.g. negotiation of economic and trade cooperation agreements, PTAs and BITs/IIAs). Due to complex administrative structure of the country and binding internal procedures, the organisation of each joint committee meeting took us approximately two months. On the other hand, any major decision (at least on Bosnia and Herzegovina side) needs to be either pre- or post-approved by the government or other competent institution. Therefore, for us, such meetings in substance have little or no executive power.
Instead, we came to conclusion that it would be more efficient to have more frequent meetings of smaller delegations at two levels. One would be technical-expert level which could take stock on all issues and recommend best actions to be taken. Smaller but high-level delegations (headed or accompanied by the joint committee chairs) could than take more executive decisions. This way we could keep dynamics and be more efficient. If desired so, previous two formats do not prevent us from convening a joint committee session in full capacity once we have critical number of issues we can actually decide on.
- The second meet of Joint Committee was held in September 2006; after a long gap of six years the third meeting was held. The length of gaps show lack of interest in promoting bilateral trade between the two countries. What do you say to these long gaps?
I can assure you that, at least from Bosnia and Herzegovina side, that such long gaps are in no case lack of interest or anything similar. On the contrary, within the given framework and constraints I explained in answer to your previous question, we are struggling to make time and place for all our trading and economic cooperation partners.
On the other hand, this form of cooperation gives no guarantees that it will result with tangible effects for economies involved. I will give you the example of cooperation with Germany. We have no economic cooperation agreement with this country nor we have established a joint committee as a forum for cooperation. Still, this country is a number one foreign trade partner of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Maybe there is something from this relation we can also apply in relation to other countries to boost the trade and economic ties!
- Why is the pace of Indian investments in Bosnia Herzegovina almost nil?
I believe Indian businessmen would be more competent to answer to this question. It may be that we in Bosnia and Herzegovina have not done enough to spread the information on the investment possibilities. Our Foreign Investment Promotion Agency of BiH is quite active and I am sure can provide valuable information to those interested. During the last meeting of the Joint Committee Co-Chairs’s held Delhi in December 2016 that was one of the topics about which we exchanged the most recent information and contacts. Let us see if they need our additional support.
- What is the progress on India setting up two IT centres of excellence for training students in Bosnia?
This is an issue that we need to work on in the coming period. The Indian competence and capacities in this sectors are well known and appreciated. It would be great to further develop such capacities in Bosnia and Herzegovina as well.