26 SEPTEMBER 2001
Economic Services Minister Josef Bonnici last week launched a pilot project aimed at promoting external trade. Prof. Bonnici shares his views on the joint effort by the Foreign Affairs Ministry and the Malta External Trade Corporation
We are here to launch an important initiative that is bound to strengthen considerably our trade promotion capabilities. It is an initiative designed to merge METCOs trade promotion expertise with the on-the-spot presence of Maltas diplomatic personnel, stationed in our embassies, overseas. We will first start off with a pilot project covering the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Egypt. However, the intention is to gradually increase the number of countries covered by this joint METCO-MFA project, with the ultimate objective of having all our embassies actively participating in our trade promotion effort.
This joint initiative has been prompted by the realisation that globalisation has intensified competition in international trade. Success increasingly depends on the quality and preparedness of the countrys representatives in foreign countries to identify, attract and pursue effectively opportunities in trade and investment, for the benefit of their countries. This in essence requires the mobilisation of our diplomatic resources to assist and support the endaveours of trade promotion organizations like METCO and other business support institutions. The pilot project (as presented and discussed today) should help to make the promotion of our local products and services more effective, in those overseas markets that we want to target.
I will not dwell too much in the specifics of the program, however I will say that in essence it seeks to train Ministry of Foreign Affairs personnel in practical trade promotion techniques and by doing so, enable them to assist METCO and Maltese industry more effectively.
Each Embassy, forming part of the Pilot project, will be working towards the execution of a specific work programme consisting of contact making initiatives, seminars, the organisation of business delegations and the collating of market intelligence, as well as other tasks. A very sensible and pragmatic work program has been developed and I am sure that Maltas industry will see an immediate benefit.
The project will be of direct benefit to Maltese firms by encouraging and promoting a more intensive use of Maltas diplomatic corps. This commitment to assist local industry and reach out to global markets through the use of Maltas diplomatic network is crucial to Malta.
This conviction is based on our awareness of certain opportunities in markets within Europe and around the Mediterranean. We are on the verge of dramatic changes within our geographic region. EU enlargement with Maltas application on the fast track can only mean greater challenges and opportunities for Maltese firms. Similarly, the decision of many North African counties to seek closer commercial ties with the European Union is resulting in a gradual liberalisation of these emerging markets.
On a more general note, the pilot project can also be seen in the light of Governments effort and commitment to restructure the economy. The size of Maltas internal market is such that our industry and companies need access to larger markets in which to prosper. Thus, the combined efforts of our diplomats and METCO will serve to expand the confines of our domestic market into the global economy by using all available resources in a more effective fashion.
Both Minister Borg and myself view this initiative with great expectations and we are convinced that the desired results will be forthcoming in a relatively short time. Of course, the co-operation between METCO and the Ministry of Economic Services and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will serve to enhance, but not replace, the individual efforts of our entrepreneurs and METCOs own trade promotion activities.
I would therefore, once again, like to commend METCO and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on this initiative since it an important step that will bring Maltas diplomatic corps closer to industry and industry closer to Maltas diplomatic corps.