* March industrial production up 0.8 pct year-on-year
* Foreign trade deficit down 23.7 pct in Q1
* Serbia targeting 2 pct growth in GDP in 2013
(Adds trade deficit, production, quote)
BELGRADE, April 30 Serbia's economy grew 1.9
percent in the first quarter and its trade deficit shrank 23.7
percent, helped by its joint venture with Italy's carmaker Fiat
, as well as agriculture and the oil and gas industry.
The European Union candidate state is targeting growth of 2
percent this year after slipping into recession in 2012 due to
the fallout from the crisis in the euro zone, Serbia's main
trade partner and source of investment.
Industrial production rose 0.8 percent in March year-on-year
and 5.2 percent for the period January-March, according to a
flash estimate by the state statistics office on Tuesday.
The country's foreign trade deficit narrowed 23.7 percent at
1.27 billion euros.
The data provides a boost for Serbia's government on the
back of a landmark accord on April 19 with the country's former
Kosovo province, which won Belgrade a preliminary green light to
start membership talks with the European Union later this year.
The 27-nation bloc will take a final decision on accession
talks in late June. The process is expected to drive reform in
the country of 7.3 million people and help lure investors.
"The good news flow continues on Serbia," said Tim Ash, head
of emerging markets research at Standard Bank.
"Low base period effects were a key factor herein, but this
also shows the impact of the ramping up of production at the
Fiat car plant", he said in a note. "Increased production from
the Nis refinery is also helping, as the facility was being
renovated for much of last year."
He said the 2-percent GDP growth target "seems pretty
The statistics office said it would provide more details on
the data on June 28.
(Writing by Matt Robinson; Editing by Louise Heavens)