As the EU’s 28th member state, entry into the EU means an increase in the free circulation of goods, services and people between Croatia and the UK, as well as removing some of the existing barriers to trade.This is great news for UK businesses, as Croatia and its 4.5m population presents a host of export and trading opportunities for them to exploit. Croatia already imports 72 per cent of its goods from Europe, of which UK goods represent a value of approximately £1.5m. Currently, the top UK exports to Croatia include medicinal and pharmaceutical products, industrial machinery, transport and telecoms equipment. There are two key benefits to trading with Croatia with its new EU member status; trade traffic will no longer require customs clearance, and current import taxes levied on trade between EU states and Croatia will cease, providing a better profit margin for UK businesses. In addition, Croatian customs law will be aligned with EU legislation, affording UK businesses increased simplification and improved customs control opportunities. In terms of ease of doing business, UK SMEs may well find Croatia becomes an ‘easier’ trading partner than many of its neighbouring states because approximately half the population is fluent in English. Another important key benefit, and facilitator to trade, is that Croatia has a sophisticated online infrastructure, with high levels of internet accessibility throughout the country, smoothing the path for e-commerce. The Croatian Government has also founded an e-business Competitiveness Improvement Project, which is funded by the European Union’s IPA Regional Competitiveness Programme. As well as the benefits of a shared language and strong online capability, large and continued investment in almost all areas of national infrastructure has supported recent Croatian growth and is set to increase with EU membership. This will ensure future economic stability and development, providing UK businesses with a secure trading partner for years to come. Exploiting the opportunities that international trade offers is certainly exciting, but it still remains a more complex process than trading within the UK. The difficulties that external businesses have encountered in Croatia range from high levels of bureaucracy to lack of transparency in administration. These can generally be overcome with a little research and expert guidance. British companies looking to do business in Croatia should be prepared to encounter different business practices, cultures, customs and currencies, and be willing to seek help and advice from international trading experts such as the UKTI, which offers a range of services for UK exporters. The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) also offers export-training services. Phil Couchman is the CEO of DHL Express UK & Ireland.
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