6 MARCH 2002

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A two-way business stream

Finance Minister John Dalli addresses the BoV ‘Libya – your neighbour and business partner’ conference. Mr Dalli emphasises that business between the Malta and Libya is a two-way stream that depends on strong economic, cultural and political links

It is always a great pleasure for me to address events that are in connection to Libya – our neighbour and also a friend. Indeed, history has bound Malta and Libya on various levels and over the years both countries have developed strong links of an economic, cultural and political nature.
In fact, this is a partnership that has shown no restraint but a strong mutual drive to foster enhanced levels of co-operation in these fields. Today's event is further evidence of this solid relationship that is built on trust, mutual understanding, and reciprocity.
During the past 12 months or so, there have been two important developments from Malta's side that further strengthen the prospects of business with Libya. I am referring to the opening of the Bank of Valletta's office in Tripoli a few weeks ago, and the setting up of METCO's offices there last year.
These are two mutually reinforcing initiatives in the sense that companies wishing to do business in Libya may now utilise the services provided by METCO, Malta's national trade promotion agency, while those companies who manage to secure business can now benefit from the on the spot presence of one of Malta's leading banks. Banking and trade promotion are two sides of the same coin. One cannot be truly successful without the other.
The opening of the offices of the Bank of Valletta and METCO is a natural development building on the success that has been achieved over the past decades in establishing the correct environment, fiscal infrastructure and conduits to facilitate business between the two countries. The philosophy is to develop two way business between Malta and Libya
The key word here is 'two-way'. Both the Bank of Valletta and METCO are encouraging and providing support to Maltese and Libyan companies and organisations interested in a variety of business opportunities. The mindset is no longer that of simply selling to Libya.
Today it is really about reciprocity in terms of both trade and investment. In this respect, I can unequivocally state that the Government of Malta, METCO and the Bank of Valletta are ready to assist Maltese companies to invest in Libya, set up businesses there with Libyan partners, as well as buying and selling from Libya. We want Maltese firms to look beyond the confines of traditional businesses when dealing with Libya.
There are many new industry sectors that the Libyan Government is seeking to develop. These do not only include tourism and a number of other service industries but also the development of the vast raw material resources that exist in Libya as well as manufacturing. It is important to understand that apart from providing a much bigger market than ours, Libya is fast developing as the access to the African Continent. This presents enormous opportunities.
The Maltese Government through the support it lends to organisations like the Bank of Valletta and METCO, is also prepared to assist its neighbour to further develop and expand indigenous industries in lines with the declared policies of the Libyan authorities.
It is also important mentioning that the philosophies of both the Bank of Valletta and METCO in Malta are also directed towards providing support and services to Libyan businesses and other entities seeking to expand internationally.
Thus for example, I am confident that that Bank of Valletta would look favourably upon viable Maltese-Libyan business ventures seeking to tap business opportunities in Europe and the Mediterranean. Likewise, Malta's national trade promotion agency, METCO, is also keen to assist Libyan companies and other organisations to form strategic alliances with Maltese companies with a view to jointly penetrating markets in Europe and the Mediterranean.
I am also confident that the Libyan authorities will also look favourably towards Maltese and Libyan ventures that seek to take advantage of Libya's close ties with its Southern neighbours in Africa. In this regard, Libya can act as a doorway into these markets just as Malta can act as a doorway for Libyan businesses into Europe and beyond. And again, the direct presence of both METCO and the Bank of Valletta will be of invaluable assistance to interested parties from both countries in making these possibilities materialize.
I must also emphasize that although the presence of the Bank of Valletta and METCO in Libya is important, the support being provided by the Libyan authorities is fundamentally important. In recent years there have been great positive changes in the Libyan economic and business environment as a result of the foresight of those responsible for the country's economic and industrial development.
In a nutshell, it is now easier to do business in Libya, as new legislation is in place that is much more user friendly to the foreign investors. I will not go into specifics on these points, as I am sure that my learned Libyan colleagues have provided you with ample information on this particular aspect. Suffice to say that just as the Bank of Valletta and METCO are there to provide the necessary support, one must not forget that there are a number of Libyan agencies, organisations and Chambers of Commerce whose role is that of assisting the foreign business person do business in Libya. In this regard, I take this opportunity to encourage Maltese companies to utilize their services to the fullest extent possible.
I am certain that with the backing of the Governments of Malta and Libya together with the specialized support provided by the Bank of Valletta, METCO, the Federation of Libyan Chambers of Commerce, and the Libyan Investment Board among others, Maltese and Libyan businesses will be able to increase the level of two way trade and investment between our two countries.
I sincerely believe that the level of two way business between Malta and Libya will receive a significant and welcome boost arising out of Malta’s accession to the European Union. With Malta becoming a full member of the European Union within the next few years, we have a role to play in acting as Libya's partner and gateway into EU markets.
The Libyans will stand to benefit from this eventuality since they can continue to count on Malta's friendship, understanding and solidarity. In other words, EU membership offers all parties concerned a win-win opportunity. And one must not forget that even today, Libya's biggest trading partners are European Union member states.
I would like to conclude by urging Maltese and Libyan businesses to seek new avenues of business cooperation. They must not only focus on trading, and import-export possibilities, but must also consider investment options with more Libyan investment in Malta, and more Maltese investment in Libya.
We must continue to encourage and support Libyan and Maltese firms to enter into strategic alliances, joint ventures, technology transfer arrangements, as well as reciprocal and third country marketing arrangements. The Government of Malta therefore encourages Maltese companies to take on a more pronounced role in doing business with Libya, just as the Libyan Government is keen to encourage more Libyan businesses and trading organisations to become more proactive internationally.
The success we have achieved so far should spurn us for more intensive action in the future. Indeed, today's Conference may be seen as a milestone in translation of this vision into action.

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