21 MAY 2003

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Finance and Economic Services launches EU information meetings for SMEs

By Matthew Vella
Parliamentary Secretary Edwin Vassallo yesterday launched a series of EU information meetings for small enterprises, each meeting for a different sector.
The meetings will be specifically addressing the following sectors: construction; bakers and confectioners; furniture and aluminium manufacturers; importers and exporters; crafts manufacturers; mechanics and panel beaters; and foodstuff producers.
The meetings will take place at the METCO offices in San Gwann.
Present at the meetings will be those agencies assisting the cultivation of small enterprise in Malta within an enlarged European Union. These will include the: Building Industry Consultative Committee; Malta Standards Authority; MIC; GRTU; IPSE; Customs; Malta Crafts Council; VAT Department and the FOI.
Vassallo said the information exercise would be completing that of the EU’s enterprise directorate-general, whose document on enterprise and enlargement seeks to address the challenges ahead.
With accession, the EU is expected to become the world’s largest exporter with a share of 20 per cent of world exports. Trade within the EU will also increase by a further nine per cent.
However, the opening-up of markets puts new pressure on enterprises, especially in traditional industrial sectors. SMEs are particularly exposed to the numerous changes in the business environment.
We have to prepare these small enterprises for accession, because they form the basis of our economy. Their specific needs have to be taken into account," Vassallo said.
"They have challenges to respond to and opportunities to grasp. It is for this reason that we shall be meeting the different sectors at METCO, alongside the agencies designed to help them, and assist them in their information needs for EU accession."
Vassallo said the meetings have been designed to address the economic impact of the enlarged EU market, now to grow to an approximate market of half a billion consumers.
"We shall be discussing the economic impact from the removal of tariffs and other trade barriers, equipping one’s company for European competition, and how to go on about offering their services beyond Maltese shores."
Vassallo said the demand for information from small enterprises had increased dramatically since the elections. Companies had now started seeking information on commencing their operations within the European market.
"It is no longer a question of ‘if Malta enters the EU’ for these enterprises. They want to know how they will face competition and how they can capitalise on the opportunities available.
"These meetings will also help most of the agencies prepare themselves for the challenges they shall meet when addressing the needs of small and medium enterprise. Such consultation is endemic to a change in culture in our business community. Enterprises have to meet more frequently and ask questions in order to learn more about the experience we are about to embark upon."
Vassallo said foreign parent companies whose franchises are also based in Malta, had asked their Maltese counterparts to start thinking about extending their operations abroad.

Copyright © Newsworks Ltd. Malta.
Editor: Saviour Balzan
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