04 June 2003

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Free trade does not mean a free hand - Vassallo

In what could be interpreted as a reaction to criticism over the Doulos affair, Parliamentary Secretary Edwin Vassallo yesterday said in a statement that free trade could not be interpreted as a system free from regulation.
Vassallo has been heavily criticised for his comments on the government’s stand to not allow the MV Doulos to sell books in Maltese waters. In his statement the Doulos was not mentioned, but the implications were clear.
Vassallo was speaking to furniture manufacturers at the Malta External Trade Corporation and said: "Our duty is to have an organised market with a level playing field for all. We cannot interpret the concept of free trade as a system where the rule of the jungle is king. The more free trade is adopted, the more we need to obey organisational rules. We must be careful and be sensitive to other companies needs. There is need for intelligent competition in business, we have to be able to work and learn from each other."
The Parliamentary Secretary is pushing for more sustainable businesses: "small enterprises were always considered to be the motor of the economy. It is important that we strengthen the role of small enterprises, and the government is committed to help you with your decisions in order to make your businesses more sustainable.
You have to learn to defend yourselves."
Vassallo intimated that there were people who were working against the interests of Maltese businesses: "Those that are against, are trying to make their voice heard and it is your duty to inform the public of the genuineness of Maltese products and the services being offered to the public."
On a more positive note, Vassallo announced that the idea of a ‘Business Clinic,’ where representatives, officials and experts from government would be able to visit and advise businesses in financial difficulties.
The Parliamentary Secretary concluded by saying that government entities previously considered to be some sort of police over business were now looked upon as partners in business. He mentioned as examples, the Small Business Unit, the Malta Standards Authority and the Malta-EU Information Centre.

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Editor: Saviour Balzan
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