Public procurement is a sector that has great potential to dynamise the economy and sharing experiences in that field can be of significant benefit, it was said at a Korean-Croatian business forum in Zagreb on Tuesday.
The forum, the seventh of its kind, focused on the topic of sharing experiences in public procurement for business partnership. It was organised by the Korean Embassy in Croatia, with the support of the Economy Ministry, the Official Gazette, the Korean office for public procurement, the Croatian-Korean Business Club and the Korean Business Centre Zagreb (KOTRA).
The previous forums focused on topics such as cooperation in energy, infrastructure, IT, environmental protection, tourism, and the cosmetics industry.
The Ambassador of the Republic of Korea, Kim Dong-chan said that the Croatian-Korean cooperation had been developing constantly since the first forum, held in 2013.
Last year's introduction of a direct Korean Air flight service between Seoul and Zagreb was a major step in improving that cooperation, it was said.
Speaking of public procurement, the Korean ambassador said that it accounted for close to 20% of the EU's GDP.
Most public procurement contracts in Croatia are signed by domestic companies and those from the EU while contracts with companies from other countries, including Korea, account for less than 10%, the Korean official said, adding that he hoped cooperation in that sector could be advanced.
The State Secretary at the Economy Ministry, Natasa Mikus Zigman, said that Croatia spent HRK 45 billion on public procurement in 2018, which accounted for around 14% of its GDP.
She noted that the sector had great potential in making the economy more dynamic.
One of the goals of the 2017 Public Procurement Act was to obtain the best quality for the price paid, which included the Most Economically Advantageous Tender, she said but noted that in practice, the criterion of the lowest price still prevailed in public procurement tenders, which required further education.
Mikus Zigman said the last European Commission report showed that Croatia was among the ten most successful countries in terms of public procurement, but she noted that cross-border cooperation and the conclusion of contracts with foreign companies required further promotion and improvement.
Ines Obradovic, head of the Croatian Chamber of Commerce (HGK) sector for international business and the EU, said that as the youngest EU member, Croatia could provide access to a market of 500 million consumers and that in terms of trade it had a special geo-strategic position that could help Korea transport its goods into Europe's interior faster than via some other, better known maritime routes.
Obradovic said that tourism had been the most important sector for cooperation between Croatia and Korea in recent years, and that close to 410,000 Koreans visited Croatia in 2018 alone.
Hrvoje Buntak of the Croatian-Korean Business Club said that the most promising areas of possible cooperation and investment were tourism, IT, the food and beverages industry, the health sector and higher education.