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Bosnia court annuls trade law as farmers protest

Bosnia court annuls trade law as farmers protest

By Daria Sito-Sucic and Maja Zuvela

28 September 2009

Bosnia’s top court has annulled an import tax law which it said violated a regional free trade treaty and commitments to the EU, while about 1,000 farmers and food producers protested outside the court building.

The law imposed duty on around 1,000 imported products, and was approved by parliament in June despite strong objections from the European Union and neighbouring countries.

"This is the judgement day for agricultural producers in Bosnia-Herzegovina," said Miro Pejic, the president of Bosnia’s association of farmers and food producers among several hundred supporters who gathered in front of the court in Sarajevo.

The farmers said they face unfair competition from Serbia and Croatia which tax imported Bosnian products while exporting their products to Bosnia free of tariffs.

Serbia and Croatia threatened to impose countermeasures if the law came into force.

Bosnia Herzegovina — a Muslim-Croat federation and a Serb Republic that co-exist under a central government — does not have a state agriculture ministry or countrywide farming policies.

The European Union said the law breached the Central Europe Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA) agreed by Balkan countries in 2006 to boost regional trade and prepare for EU single market entry.

It said the law also violated Bosnia’s commitments under its 2008 Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) with the EU, the country’s first formal contract with the 27-nation bloc.

Source: Reuters, Business News