Serbia-UK Trade Deal – Keeping the Old and Opening New Possibilities
The commercial cooperation between Serbian and UK companies, the legal aspects of which we discussed in a number of previous AKT blog posts
The commercial cooperation between Serbian and UK companies, the legal aspects of which we discussed in a number of previous AKT blog posts (see e.g. https://www.akt.rs/en/publication/english-contract-law-and-its-importance-for-international-commercial-transactions) has received a strong boost with the recent signing of the Partnership, Trade and Cooperation Agreement between the two countries.
Its aim is to secure continued preferential trade access between the UK and Serbia, along the lines of the existing EU-Serbia agreement which has been used as its template. The agreement, now provisionally applied, allows for significant savings for businesses and supports the wider economy of both states. Another aim is to strengthen political, security and cultural ties, and reaffirm the support for governance reform in Serbia to improve competitiveness of the economy and the democratic society. The agreement establishes institutional arrangements between the UK and Serbia based on existing structures (such as the “Partnership, Trade and Cooperation Council”, which is called the “Stabilisation and Association Council” in the EU-Serbia Agreement) and allows for the ongoing management and updating of the text.
The UK-Serbia Agreement reproduces the effects of the EU-Serbia Agreement as closely as possible. Many of the general changes to the EU-Serbia Agreement (such as replacing “EU” with “UK”) are applied by reading the incorporated text of the EU-Serbia Agreement mutatis mutandis, that is, with the technical changes necessary to apply the EU-Serbia Agreement as if it had been concluded between the UK and Serbia in the first instance. Where more substantive amendments were required to ensure operability, detailed amendments have been included in the Annexes to the Agreement.
In economic terms, the agreement aims to safeguard and promote the existing trade between the two countries, recently standing at £682m per year, with very significant room for increase. Most importantly, the preferential trading terms secured by the agreement enable businesses to trade as they did before 1 January 2021. In terms of foreign investments and operations in Serbia, this is good news for key British companies with long-established presence, such as Unilever, AstraZeneca, JCB and Jaguar Land Rover. Top UK exports to Serbia include scientific instruments, medicine and pharmaceutics, machinery and clothing.
Equally importantly, UK Export Finance will now make available some £3.5 billion to finance projects in Serbia, allowing the potential realisation of large infrastructure and mining projects, as well as those relating to green technologies and electronic car industry.
It is important to emphasise that the agreement is complemented by the fairly long-standing Serbia-UK Agreement on the Reciprocal Promotion and Protection of Investments (https://investmentpolicy.unctad.org/international-investment-agreements/treaty-files/4987/download) providing a set of international law protections for investors from both countries.
AKT Todorović would especially like to celebrate the role that the British-Serbian Chamber of Commerce (https://www.britserbcham.com/) had in supporting the conclusion of the agreement. AKT is a proud member of the Chambers and looks forward to supporting further initiatives between the two countries. As always, we remain at your disposal for any questions concerning the Trade Agreement, UK-Serbia protection of investments, or English law in general.