By Marina Stojanovska
Since the start of the year, over 100 different kinds of products have been imported into Macedonia without a tariff.
The change is part of the country’s efforts to implement its Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) with the EU.
According to Economy Minister Fatmir Besimi, it will also help the Macedonian economy by increasing the competitiveness of domestic producers.
“The elimination of tariffs took place gradually over several years,” he said. “This period was sufficient for domestic companies to obtain appropriate certificates for quality and to adapt themselves to the new conditions.”
Likewise, Macedonian Chamber of Commerce representative Mitko Alekos welcomed the changes, saying they will encourage Macedonian producers to modernise in order to reduce production costs.
The biggest price drop is in footwear, where a 5% tariff has been eliminated. But customers buying food products, textiles, appliances, furniture, oil derivatives, some vehicles and many other products are also getting more for their denar.
Not much change is being seen in the price of vehicles, where the tariff was only 1%. The average savings for a medium-size car is 100 euros.
However, “price reductions for luxury vehicles will probably be higher,” Skopje-based Peugeot dealer Daniel Voinovski, 43, told SETimes.
Tariffs on agricultural products will remain partially in place. The government is intent on protecting domestic agriculture, which is not covered by the SAA.
The reductions will slash the revenue obtained from customs duties. Still, Macedonian officials do not expect a substantial impact on economic growth, forecast for this year at 3%.
According to Lidija Miteva, head of the NGO “Mozam”, the move is intended to help the Macedonian economy penetrate the EU market more easily.
“It is based on the assumption that given the adjustments and the access to this huge market, it will be able to deal with EU competitiveness. Today, there is no asymmetry anymore and there is a greater decrease in customs duties for Macedonian products in the EU, than from the EU to Macedonia,” she told SETimes.
Some say they have yet to notice the positive effect of abolishing customs duties.
“We will have to see in practice how much prices of the products will be reduced. From the aspect of [increased] competition, this is great, of course, because it will increase the market supply and we will have greater choice,” Skopje resident Kathy Pankova told SETimes.
Businesses, meanwhile, already report improvements.
“For any product, there are no lower prices in the region and the EU countries than those in Macedonia. Many of the items on the list are resources from which other products are made, and lower prices will encourage industrial capacity development,” plastics importer Vlade Najdovski told SETimes.
Najdovski explained that the prices of hoses, sheets, foils, films and other materials will be reduced by close to 2.5%. “For me, this is a good chance to earn greater profits because I can offer my products at lower prices.”