23 - 30 May, 2001

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Promoting trade with Malta – a METCO perspective

THE MALTA EXTERNAL TRADE CORPORATION CHAIRMAN, ANTHONY DIACONO, RECENTLY SPEAKING AT METCO’S EXPORT MARKETING AWARDS, EMPHASISED METCO’S ROLE IN BOOSTING TRADE WITH THE REST OF THE WORLD AND ON ITS INITIATIVES AND SUCCESSES. FOLLOWING ARE EXTRACTS FROM HIS SPEECH.


By Anthony Diacono

As most of you know, METCO has a unique constitution – it is a real partnership between government, the Malta Federation of Industry and the Malta Chamber of Commerce, with the further important dimension of the users having a real say in its operations. METCO has received unqualified support from these two institutions since its inception, and I must say that it was an enlightened step for government to have given these organisations a real say in the running of METCO. This is further strengthened by the fact that Users can also elect one of their own to represent them directly on METCO's Board of Directors.

And I must also add, that our Minister has made certain that all of our Board Members come directly from industry. This again has proven to be an enlightened step as it means that METCO is not only owned in part by the private sector, but it is also directed by people at board level who come directly from the world of industry and export.

In the face of such a large audience, it would be short sighted of me not to promote the usage of METCO services to this 'captive market'. I therefore take this opportunity to say that METCO is first and foremost a service organisation – not an institution. It is at the service of industry and this emerges very clearly from our Mission Statement.

Our mission is a demanding one, certainly for an organisation of this size. We aim to 'encourage the integration of Maltese business into the global economy. This means two things – the first is to help companies that are already exporting to export more. The second perhaps more important meaning is to help indigenous companies that are focused on the local market to begin to operate on a wider plane. In order words to encourage and nurture new exporters. The presentation of this edition of the METCO Export Marketing Award is a clear manifestation of this.
Our mission is also to 'enhance the capability of Maltese industry to realise international business opportunities and co-operation'. This means helping Maltese companies to develop the contacts, skills and experiences to operate in the international arena. METCO's real business is that of creating and nurturing exporters and export marketers.

We also seek to 'act as a centre for trade information'. This in effect means providing market and business information to companies, exporters and would-be exporters together with information on emerging business opportunities, market developments, and technical issues related to trade.

Our mission also reminds us that METCO has an important role in promoting international business co-operation, that is the provision of services to Maltese companies looking to locate and meet with potential overseas partners so that they may jointly penetrate regional and other markets.

The final component of our mission statement also refers to our role to 'project Malta's image as a trading partner'. This reminds us that as an organisation we have a national role to play to demonstrate the strengths of Maltese industry -efficiency, reliability and a strong work ethic.

METCO is a small organisation. It was set up in 1989 and is therefore still a relatively young one. It is an organisation which must concentrate hard to focus its limited resources on achieving its mission in a practical and effective manner.

METCO seeks to achieve its mission by providing four main streams of services and activities with the first being trade promotion initiatives. These services are various, however the ones with which you are most familiar are: international fairs and exhibitions and trade missions.

The second area of operations that we focus on is business co-operation. In today's global economic village, the concept of trade is not what it used to be only a decade ago. Today, international trade is about building partnerships and export oriented strategic alliances – it is also about business co-operation in the wider sense of the term. Services provided to industry by METCO in fulfilment of these objectives include, among others: business co-operation missions and other events, business partner matching services.

Very briefly I will stress the joint nature of such overseas initiatives and services. They are not METCO services, they are 'our' services and it is up to us, that is METCO and the local industrial community to make them work.

The third area of operation of METCO refers to the provision of market information services, which is another important pillar of our activities. METCO is deeply conscious of the indispensability to users of accurate and up-to-date trade, market and business information. This is critical to export success. The services are various and include among others: a business information centre and library, market reports and market newsletters.

Time does not permit me to go into any detail here. However, I will say that without such information services, underpinned by a solid information technology base, few if any of our users can be successful overseas.

While on the subject of information, I should mention the important role METCO's Euro Info Correspondence Centre has in disseminating information to users, particularly SMEs, on a wide range of EU-related subjects. Indeed, this presents me with an opportunity to thank the European Commission for the long-standing support given to METCO and the Euro Info Correspondence Centre. In view of Malta's membership of the European Union, I should mention that the EICC has become the focal point within METCO on matters related to the EU and is pursuing its goal of providing companies with information and expertise on EU matters with added vigour.

The fourth and perhaps least visible of METCO services are its business support functions. Here again there are a host of other services that fall into this category and these include training activities, the publication of trade-related literature such as Malta's most widely circulated trade directory, on-the-spot assistance to business visitors to Malta, and the provision of meeting and conference facilities at METCO. Indeed, without these services METCO's facility would not be able to live up to its name as a 'trade centre'.

Again, time does not allow me to delve into any detail, however I would like to encourage firms to use these cost-effective services and to make even more use of our new and expanded conference and exhibition facilities.

Having briefly re-visited our mission statement and having gone through some of METCO's services, I think it is appropriate that I mention three developments, which could be of interest to our users.

First – METCO has recently opened its first overseas office that is located in the capital of Libyan, Tripoli. Funds permitting, this will be one of three such offices that we would like to have in selected markets in the European Union, North Africa and the Middle East.

I am happy to report that since the office was officially opened by Minister Bonnici just a few months ago, the number of Maltese companies that have opted to become members of our this office has exceeded our expectations. The augurs well for the future and I encourage those companies interested in North Africa who have not yet become members of METCO's Libya office to take advantage of this opportunity.

Second, as was announced recently in the press, Malta has become part of the World Trade Centres Association. I am pleased to say that the World Trade Centre franchise for Malta has been purchased by METCO and the MDC. And again, I must thank Minister Bonnici whose intervention was instrumental in making this happen.

We are certain that through the World Trade Centres global network, Malta will be able to tap into numerous trade and investment opportunities to which we did not have access to before.

More importantly, as METCO Users, you too will be able to tap into the resource network of the World Trade Centres around the world, of which there are 700 such centres, and whose member companies exceed 700,000. In other words, it may now be possible for you to look at new markets and develop new business leads via this new trade promotion avenue. Membership of the world trade centre network has also wider implications for Malta.

Indeed, we share Minister Bonnici's vision that World Trade Centre membership will not only enable METCO to promote Malta's trade abroad more effectively, but will also give Malta an added degree of international business credibility and will prove to be extremely useful in the MDC's new investment promotion drive which is being implemented with renewed vigour and determination.

Third – we are in the process of finalising a project with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs whereby a more direct relationship may be established with Maltese Embassies in priority markets in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East, so that joint trade promotion programmes could be developed by METCO and each of the embassies involved. Other things being equal, we plan to implement the project next year.

I should mention that it is imperative that we use the presence of our embassies in priority export markets, to the fullest extent possible. Likewise, it is equally important that our Users, Maltese manufacturers and exporters in particular, seek to use these 'outposts' as much as possible.

Two things are needed for this to be successful. First, the provision of adequate training in trade promotion for the diplomatic personnel involved. And second, the development of joint and synchronised trade promotion initiatives by METCO and the embassies in question. In other words, we have to act as a team.

 



The Business Times, Network House, Vjal ir-Rihan San Gwann SGN 07
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