US-Yugoslav trade in high gear, but grinding

Yugoslav-US trade rapidly expanded in the last five years, doubling in value to more than $1.4 billion in 1980. But at least $1 billion of that trade came about through a tripling of US exports to Yugoslavia, while deliveries in the opposite direction recorded a modest growth. The resulting trade deficit makes Yugoslavia eager for new business links with the United States.

The US ranks fourth among Yugoslav foreign economic partners in commodities but first in financial cooperation, technology transfers, and joint ventures.

At present Yugoslav exports to the US are mainly canned ham, tobacco, ferro-alloys, nonferrous metals and manufactures, furniture, footwear, and clothing. It purchases large stores of US grain, coking coal, and chemicals. Main imports are machinery and transport equipment, reflecting Yugoslavia's desire for American technology.

To boost its exports generally, Yugoslavia must stabilize its economy, curbing inflation. But to increase its shipments to the US, it must offer products in amounts large enough to satisfy the American market and sound out new regions other than the East Coast.

Also, Yugoslavia would like the American scheme of trade preferences better suited to its products. An agreement with the European Community last year opened up EC nations to more Yugoslav goods. Yugoslavia is also interested in having (1) joint ventures with US firms in third countries, primarily developing nations, and (2) Yugoslav industry become a parts supplier for US firms, since it has reached an advanced technological level. This particularly goes for metalworking industries which have successfully cooperated with European firms.

Present US-Yugoslav joint ventures have been judged satisfactory by both sides, and include such companies as Dow Chemical, General Motors, Honeywell, B. F. Goodrich, and General Foods. US companies sometimes complain that Yugoslav legislation regulating this cooperation is not encouraging enough.

Active exploration of closer business links was taken up in June, when more than 100 US businesses sent representatives to Dubrovnik to meet with Yugoslav work organizations. It was the seventh such meeting since the 1974 founding of two associations, the Yugoslav Chamber for Promoting Economic Cooperation with the United States, headquartered in Belgrade, and of the US-Yugoslav Economic Council from New York.

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