05 FEBRUARY 2003

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MES shoots down GWU on drop in exports to EU claim

By David Lindsay
The Economic Services Ministry has strongly rebutted comments by General Workers’ Union General Secretary Tony Zarb, who was quoted recently as stating, "Exports (from Malta) to the EU have declined by nearly 30 per cent since Malta’s application for membership".
The Ministry, however, stresses adamantly this is simply not the case, explaining that Maltese exports to the EU had actually increased by as much as 34 per cent between 1991 and 2002 - rising from Lm315 million to Lm422 million over the period.
Malta had first submitted its application for EU membership in 1990.
However, the Ministry explains, "What has decreased is the relative share of exports to the EU, as a percentage of total exports from Malta. This highlights Malta’s success in diversifying its export markets in what has become a much more competitive and globalised international market.
"Nevertheless, the EU is still, by far, the most important export destination for Malta manufactured products, accounting for over 46 per cent of our total exports in terms of value. The next most important destination is Asia, which accounts for just about 25 per cent of Maltese exports.’
This wider export market diversification is viewed as a positive trend and, if anything, the Ministry explains, it highlights the need to develop an even wider market access for Maltese products.
"It is only EU membership that will allow Maltese exporters preferential access, as from 1 May 2004, to the markets of those many countries with which the EU has established trade agreements."
Indeed, the business opportunities at hand in a number of developing markets are enormous and EU membership is a very realistic route by which local companies would be able to tap into them. The negotiation of trade agreements is a long, painstaking and sometimes fruitless process.
The EU last year concluded a series of important bilateral and regional preferential agreements that have opened up markets for EU goods and services. These have emerged in various regions of the world including Latin America, the Mediterranean region, the Gulf region, the Balkans, South Africa and the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries.
The list of countries the EU has negotiated trade agreements with includes Turkey, Bulgaria, Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Romania, Switzerland, Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, the Palestinian Authority, Syria, Tunisia, Mexico, Chile and South Africa.
Meanwhile, the EU is also negotiating trade agreements with the Mercosur members - Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay - along with Syria, Croatia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and UAE.

Copyright © Newsworks Ltd. Malta.
Editor: Saviour Balzan
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