EU Offers Croatian Enterprises Access to Asian Markets

Lauren Simmonds

croatian companies

June the 7th, 2024 – The European Union (EU) is offering selected Croatian enterprises operating within the green and digital sector access to the markets of South Korea and Japan.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Marija Brnic writes,the EU’s major strategic innovation is a stronger push into Asia beyond China. This was confirmed a week ago by the European Commission by launching the EU Business Hub – Japan and Korea programme. That programme plans to provide selected companies with a breakthrough in these two markets in the next four years, these are innovative small and medium-sized enterprises operating within the green, digital sector.

The plan is to prepare them for these markets and connect them with business partners through organised missions. In total, it is planned that by 2027, about 1,000 companies will pass through this programme. They would then go on organised business missions with a co-financed performance.

A total of 20 such missions are planned, 10 to each country, and 50 companies will go on each mission. In other words, the stakes are high and those with the greatest potential will be selected.

starting in seoul

In the implementation of the programme that will be financially supported by the EU, the Eurochambres network is key, and within it the work for the Croatian area will be carried out by the Croatian Chamber of Commerce (HGK). HGK has already sent an invitation out to Croatian enterprises to inform them of the programme and the opportunities open to them. That will be properly organised online next week, more specifically on June the 10th. It’s also now known that the first departures of EU companies to these two Asian countries will take place this December. Applications for participation from Croatian enterprises will be being collected until August the 9th for Korea and until December the 16th for Japan.

The Croatian enterprises that will eventually participate in the programme will be provided with detailed preparation and familiarisation with the state of the market there. They’ll also be privy to an in-depth analysis of the sector, and be provided with connections with potential partners with whom they will have the opportunity to hold B2B conversations at the organised participation in the business fair.

In addition to getting acquainted with the markets, systems and regulations in Korea and Japan, as well as local business culture, Croatian enterprises who are selected to participate in the programme will also be provided with a free exhibition space and a special room for conducting conversations, translation, and, among other things, covering the costs of accommodation (up to 1000 euros).

The first mission takes place in Korea, during the big software and ICT business fair in Seoul (from December the 2nd to the 6th). The focus for selection will be Croatian companies from industries which deal with the likes of semiconductor and electronic components, 5G technologies, AI, cyber security and fintech.

There’s certainly no lack of interest in Korea among Croatian companies who deal with semiconductor production. That interest came after it was announced that a chip factory, which will be followed by large investments in the coming years, will pop up in Asia.

then coms toyko

The second business mission this year is planned for Tokyo at the largest exhibition SEMICON (from December the 9th to the 12th). The desired participants are Croatian companies who sell their components to manufacturers of semiconductor devices, from connectors to cables and pumps, and manufacturers semiconductor manufacturing equipment and companies that sell sensors and electronic components used in such equipment. Metal and processing companies will also be being looked at here. One of the key criteria for participation in these missions will be that the Croatian companies who apply must have been in business for at least five years.

It’s worth mentioning that HGK has already “rolled up” its sleeves when it comes to supporting Croatian companies in breaking into the demanding Korean market. A delegation of a dozen companies is currently visiting this highly developed market, which is finally seeing progress in the exchange of goods and services. Exports grew by almost 27% last year, and even more intensive growth was recorded in the first quarter of this year. The trends are currently good, but the value is still at the level of a tenth of what is achieved on the market of Japan or China.

In total, goods worth slightly more than 13 million euros were exported last year, while the increase in tourism, although visible, is yet to be expected, because a big drop followed the coronavirus pandemic. Before the pandemic, the arrival of 444,000 Korean tourists in Croatia was recorded. Last year, a much lesser figure of 146,000 was recorded. In the first four months of this year, that number tripled compared to last year.

Certainly a positive step forward, not only due to the arrival of tourists, is also the establishment of a direct airline line with Korea. Otherwise, the main export products to the Korean market are fishing rods, hooks and accessories, cheese and curds, as well as devices for mechanotherapy, tobacco, telecommunications equipment and power machinery and devices.

The HGK delegation visited the Incheon Free Economic Zone recently. Currently, 75 multinational companies from 15 countries have their offices and plants there. These include the likes of Samsung BioLogics, Celltrion, Sartorius, Boeing, BMW and GM. When it comes to Croatian companies, we can see the presence of Kraš and Podravka, Orbico and Dizz Concept, as well as Vodnjan’s Infobip and PIB Ekstra, a company from Međimurje that makes models for foundries.

Zagreb’s DOK-ING also has a branch in Korea, which provides support to customers there in the maintenance of robots. Zagrebačka pivovara (Zagreb Brewery), Vina Laguna and Zigante also manage to market their truffles there. The Korean side also recognised the stronger connection with the youngest Member State of the EU. Last year, the establishment of the Croatian-Korean business club was initiated, and now formal cooperation with HGK has been established to connect companies from the two countries and open up the market.

Almost 59 million euros worth of goods were exported to Japan last year, and the export of Croatian tuna dominates, accounting for three quarters of the total export. Last year, Croatian exports to that country recorded a growth of 18%, but this year its value has dropped significantly, by as much as 62% in the first two months alone, according to CBS data.

The number of tourists coming to Croatia from Japan is significantly lower than that from Korea (36,000 arrived last year, and around 8,000 in the first four months alone), but the trend is certainly positive. There is room for exit in other sectors as well, because it is a large and rich market, so the opportunities offered to Croatian companies through various EU programmes should be used.


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