Key Features and Challenges of the China-Western Balkan Countries Merchandise Trade Development

Main Article Content

Elena Jovičić
Danijela Stojanović


The economic growth and development of the Western Balkan largely depend on the integration of national economies into international trade flows. Bearing in mind the expanding presence of China in the Western Balkan countries and the considerable increase in bilateral trade over the previous decade, it is of great importance to focus on the strategies for overcoming main challenges and fostering more balanced trade in the forthcoming period.  Regarding that, the main aim of the research was to analyze trade flows and patterns and investigate the trade intensity between the Western Balkan countries and China. Furthermore, the research attempted to determine the main challenges and to consider the strategic approach to their overwhelming, including better exploiting the opportunities provided by trade cooperation with China in the rapidly changing global environment.

The paper used desk research - a descriptive analysis of data on merchandise trade between six Western Balkans countries (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Croatia, North Macedonia, and Serbia) and China. The analysis was based on the data available in the UN Comtrade and Trade Map statistical databases for the period 2016-2021. In addition, the Trade intensity index (TTI) was also used in the paper in order to discover how intensively the Western Balkan countries were trading with China.

However, despite the rapid trade growth with China, its share in the WB countries' total trade remains at a relatively low level of about 7%. The trade deficit also increased significantly, indicating a deepening of the asymmetry in the economic relations of the observed countries. Although the trade intensity index (TII) confirms the deepening of trade relations, the TII value of 0.24 in 2021 indicates that trade between the Western Balkans and China is still under-represented and there is considerable room for improvement.

Article Details



Atkinson, R. D. (2013). Competitiveness, innovation and productivity. The Information Technology & Innovation Foundation.–August, 2-7.
Bakari, S., & Mabrouki, M. (2017). The effect of agricultural exports on economic growth in South-Eastern Europe: An empirical investigation using panel data. Journal of Smart Economic Growth, 2(4), 49-64.
Baranenko, E., & Đukić, M. (2012). Ways for enhancement of export activities. In Andrade, J. S., Simões, M. C.N., Stošić, I.,| Erić, D.,| Hanić, H. (Eds.), Managing structural changes: trends and requirements, Coimbra, Portugal: Faculty of Economics, 520-536.
Beraha, I., & Jovičić, E. (2021). Uticaj pandemije COVID-19 na spoljnotrgovinsku razmenu između Kine i zemalja Zapadnog Balkana.
Busse M., & Königer J. (2012). Trade and Economic Growth: A Re-Examination of the Empirical Evidence. Available at SSRN: doi:10.2139/ssrn.200993
Cerdeiro, D. A., & Komaromi, A. (2017). The effect of trade on income and inequality: a cross-sectional approach. IMF Background papers.
Çetintaş, H., & Barişik, S. (2009). Export, import and economic growth: The case of transition economies. Transit. Stud. Rev., 15(4), 636–6
Chen, B., & Li, Y. (2014). Analyzing bilateral trade barriers under global trade context: a gravity model adjusted trade intensity index approach. Review of Development Economics, 18(2), 326-339.
Dong, Y., Li, K.W., & Zhang, D. (2011). Determinants of Chinese and American outward investment, Chinese Economy, Vol. 44, No. 2, p. 58-77.
Eberhard-Ruiz, A., & Calabrese, L. (2018). Trade facilitation, transport costs and the price of trucking services in East Africa. Munich Personal RePEc Archive. Available on:
Eurostat (2022). Western Balkans-EU - international trade in goods statistics. Available on:
Gigov, I. S., & Poposka, K. (2022). China's Trade and Investment in the Western Balkans Under the Belt and Road Initiative: Focus on North Macedonia. In Opportunities and Challenges for Multinational Enterprises and Foreign Direct Investment in the Belt and Road Initiative (pp. 234-259). IGI Global.
Gurgul, H., & Lach, L. (2014). Globalization and economic growth: Evidence from two decades of transition in CEE. Economic Modelling, 36, 99–107.
Gurría, A. (2014), China Go Global. OECD. Available at:
Hakobyan, S. (2017). Export competitiveness of developing countries and US trade policy. The World Economy, 40(7), 1405-1429.
Huchet, M., Chantal Le M., & Vijil, M. (2018). The relationship between trade openness and economic growth: Some new insights on the openness measurement Issue. The World Economy 41: 59–76
Ilahi, M. N., Khachatryan, M. A., Lindquist, W., Nguyen, M. N., Raei, M. F., & Rahman, J. (2019). Lifting growth in the Western Balkans: The role of global value chains and services exports. International Monetary Fund.
Jacimovic, D., R. Dragutinović Mitrović, P. Bjelić, K. Tianping, and M. Rajkovic. 2018. "The role of Chinese investments in the bilateral exports of new EU member states and Western Balkan countries." Economic research-Ekonomska istraživanja 31, no. 1: 1185-1197.
Jaklič, A., & Svetličič, M. (2019). China and Central and Eastern European Countries within'16+ 1': Group or Bilateral Relations?. Entrepreneurial Business and Economics Review, 7(2), 83-100.
Jin, X., Li, D. D., & Wu, S. (2016). How will China shape the world economy? China Economic Review, 40, 272-280.
Jovičić, E., Stevanović, S., & Beraha, I. (2020). Serbia-China bilateral trade relations: major challenges and opportunities. Economic Analysis, 53(2), 133-144.
Marjanović, D. & Domazet, I. (2018). Improving macro competitiveness - fiscal aspects. Belgrade: Institute of Economic Sciences.
Maryam, J., Banday, U. J., & Mittal, A. (2018). Trade intensity and revealed comparative advantage: an analysis of Intra-BRICS trade. International Journal of Emerging Markets.
Nguyen, H.T. (2011). Exports, Imports, FDI and Economic Growth. The University of Colorado at Boulder, Working Paper No. 11-03.
Pavlićević, D. (2019). Structural power and the China-EU-Western Balkans triangular relations. Asia Europe Journal, 17(4), 453-468.
Shambaugh, D. L. (2013). China goes global: The partial power (Vol. 111). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Songwe, V. (2019). Intra-African trade: A path to economic diversification and inclusion. Coulibaly, Brahima S..: Foresight Africa: Top Priorities for the Continent in, 97-116.
Szunomár, Ágnes, Karindi Liisi and Andreea Leonte. 2020. "Economic relations: A sugar cane, or a sugar-coated stick?", in Empty shell no more: China’s growing footprint in Central and Eastern Europe, policy paper.
Temiz Dinç, D., & Gokmen, A. (2019). Export-led economic growth and the case of Brazil: An empirical research. Journal of Transnational Management 24(2), 122-141.
Vangeli, A. (2019) China: a new geoeconomic approach to the Balkans. In: Bieber F, Tzifakis N (eds) The Western Balkans in the world: linkages and relations with non-Western countries. Routledge, London.
Yue, L. (2018). Economic ‘highway’ with three speed tracks and destinations between China and CEE. China–CEE Institute Working Paper, (14).
Zakić, K. (2022). Economic connectivity within the BRI: China and the Western Balkans. In The Connectivity Cooperation Between China and Europe (pp. 216-236). Routledge.
Zakić, K., & Radišić, B. (2019). China's Belt and Road Investment Projects in the Balkan Countries: Six Years After. The Review of International Affairs, 70, 48-68.1