US rewards Belgrade

BELGRADE (Reuters) – The United States has removed customs duties from some 4,000 products from Serbia-Montenegro as a reward for Belgrade’s reforms and improved cooperation with the Hague war crimes court, Serb officials said Thursday. In a document available on the White House website, a proclamation by President George W. Bush said he decided to designate Serbia-Montenegro as a beneficiary developing country for the purpose of the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP). The GSP program aims to promote economic growth in the developing world by allowing duty-free entry to over 4,500 products from around 140 countries. Serb Finance Minister Mladjan Dinkic said that besides the favorable effect on exports, particularly by food industry and tire, steel and copper producers, the move was a sign of improved political relations between Washington and Belgrade. «This decision is of great political importance because it was the last obstacle in our relations with the United States,» Dinkic told reporters. Minister for Foreign Economic Relations Milan Parivodic said the Serbian government had put a great effort into cooperating with the Hague tribunal and also in reforming society, a fact the US president recognized by signing this act. Washington resumed aid to Serbia earlier this month as a reward for its having sent 12 war crimes fugitives to the war crimes court in The Hague this year. The US first suspended normal trade relations with Yugoslavia, the predecessor state of Serbia-Montenegro in 1992, in response to Belgrade’s role in the Bosnian war. It restored them in late 2003, three years after Slobodan Milosevic was ousted. Serbia’s exports to the US amounted to $425 million last year.

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