Albania—In search of new markets

Albania—In search of new markets

[INTERVIEW]

H.E. Mr. Ditmir Bushati
Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Albania

Aga Charytoniuk sat down with H.E. Mr. Ditmir Bushati, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Albania, to discuss the prominent future of the country’s private sector. This interview was conducted during the visit of Minister Bushati in Tokyo on 6-7 April 2015.


—Japan will open its embassy in Albania in 2016. How will this influence bilateral relations?

The agenda of the Japanese government in opening a Japanese embassy in Tirana will be to balance the fact that the Embassy of Albania was established ten years ago in Japan. That will bring enhanced dynamism to Japan-Albania relations and it will also provide strategic depth to the role of Japan in the Western Balkans. It is expected that a diplomatic mission will create a positive impetus by attracting Japanese companies and tourists. In addition, we also hope for Albanian companies and businesses to have a wider window into Japan. Our embassy in Japan is doing very well, but a future with two embassies in the respective countries and two ambassadors coordinating would provide a better perspective.

—What are some prime sectors in the Albanian economy and which ones have potential for the Japanese domestic market?

The government of Albanian has prioritized agriculture and tourism as primary elements of economic development and progress.

The government of Albanian has prioritized agriculture and tourism as primary elements of economic development and progress. Both sectors are nascent and provide great opportunities for foreign direct investment (FDI) from Japanese companies, which want to focus in the Western Balkans, a market of 20 million citizens. Political stability, comparative wages and a young and dynamic workforce, 145km from the European Union (EU), can bring a competitive edge to expanding companies in search of new markets. In addition, Albania is a resource rich country and FDI in the mining sector can bring positive synergy.

—Japan is currently working on attracting FDI. How has the Albanian government encouraged its private sectors to expand abroad?

Albanian companies have made considerable inroads in introducing to the Japanese market bio-agricultural products as well as medicinal plants for the pharmaceutical industry. The Albanian government has played an active role in increasing inspection standards for export products by achieving unified quality excellence in line with EU standards. Coordination with the Embassy of the Republic of Albania in Tokyo has introduced Albanian exporters to the demands and standards of the Japanese market.

—Are there any exchange programs between Albania and Japan dedicated to technical knowledge and skills?

Yes. We are very thankful to the Japanese government for its continuous support of Albanian government agencies which have benefited greatly from the Japan International Cooperation Agency’s (JICA) technical assistance and training in a myriad of projects—engineering, architecture, as well as public and resource management. Capacity building and Japan’s world-renowned ecological expertise have made it possible to revitalize an important biosphere of the Albanian fauna and flora. Every year, for the past twenty-five years, Albanian students have been able to study Japanese and obtain graduate level degrees through the generosity of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) scholarship, exposing themselves to the high quality education of elite Japanese institutions and each year, thirty to forty Albanians are also part of JICA training programs.

—As of 2007, the European Union was Albania’s most crucial trading partner, representing 90 percent of Albania’s total trade. How has the current ruling socialist party approach liberalized trade with the EU? What is the EU candidate status for Albania?

I think there is no question mark about “whether” Albania will join the EU, or the Balkans; there is only a question about “when”. That is very important. The practice of enlargement rounds has taught us that it takes two to tango. There is a negotiation process and there are some restrictions imposed by EU member states and we have seen this happening also in other enlargement rounds.

This decision brings important benefits for Albanian citizens. The EU’s “stamp” given by the EU Council of Ministers, first of all is an important political guarantee for European and world companies that invest in Albania. As far as the economic perspective is concerned, the candidate status will encourage foreign investments and as a result, will lead to the creation of new jobs.

Albanian citizens will be able to move goods and capital from one EU country to the other without any restrictions or barriers. This will encourage the development of the economy and will facilitate bureaucratic procedures for commercial exchanges.

Consumers will have more choices and will buy cheaper products. With the integration in the EU, Albanian business will be offered extra capacities and better perspectives to compete in a unique market of 500 million consumers, such as the European market. The lifting of fees and barriers will bring a reduction in commercial costs and will reduce the possibility for firms and companies to be in monopoly positions in the market. The quality of consumption products will increase. Control standards that will be applied will be the same as in the EU member countries.

With the integration in the EU, barriers for the transfer of technology will be lifted and this will bring more access in the domain of innovation and production. Better perspectives of employment for Albanians in member countries will be offered. Direct Foreign Investments will increase. The drafting of policies for a better business environment and the efficient functioning of a free market economy in a quiet political atmosphere will stimulate foreign investments in Albania.


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