FOI says government lagging in
The Federation of Industry said Government machinery was
losing the momentum and coordination needed within the consultation
mechanism that existed at negotiation stage which led to the final agreement
with the EU.
The FOI said a typical example was the duty free market access to EU
member states promised to the Federations members in the food
and beverage industry in advance of the date of accession.
"This has been delayed from the projected date of 1st May, 2003,"
FOI noted. "In spite of repeated representations and discussions
between the FOI and Government there is still no definite date of implementation
FOI also said there was a mystery surrounding the so-called
safeguard clause that will apply during the five-year transition
"The Federation notes with satisfaction the determined stand taken
by the Minister for Rural Affairs and Environment, the Hon. George Pullicino
in a recent statement on this matter.
"The clause was negotiated by Government for the benefit of farmers
growing local fruit and vegetables, those rearing life-stock for milk
and meat production together with the processing industry that is intrinsically
linked to them. This transition clause was agreed upon by the EU member
states because there was universal recognition of the special and difficult
circumstances under which agriculture and the related processing industry
operates in Malta and to give it a better chance to develop its strengths."
FOI said it was confident Government was determined to give this sector
a chance and that it means to implement the safeguard clause
effectively and under clear rules. The FOI urged Government not to give
in to pressures from some quarters that for reasons of their own ignore
the importance of this sector.
"The Federation draws the attention of the public to the fact that
there is at stake the livelihood of several thousand persons dependent
on rural and industrial activities, and a substantial capital invested
in this sector.
"Moreover, Malta needs both a measure of food security as well
as safeguards to its environment. The agricultural community is the
best guarantee for both."
The FOIs members in the beverages and food processing industry
are concerned at the uncertainty prevailing on the matter because there
has been no consultation, the rules are still not known and there is
no assurance that the related mechanism will be speedy and effective.
"Consultation can help to give a measure of comfort to investors
in this industry whilst encouraging them to risk further investment
to improve efficiency, output and quality. The safeguard
mechanism has to be defined clearly for each segment and product without
further delay. Industry plans its future in advance, and time is running
out especially if the current lull means a postponement of the important
decisions till after the summer months."
FOI also said time was running out for Government to consult industry
about the mechanism that will operate the refund system that will apply
for the importation of essential commodities such as sugar, wheat and
rice amongst others.
"The Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs, and the Ministry
for Rural Affairs and Environment should be more forthcoming with definite
plans, information and consultation. The private sector is willing to
collaborate and make sure that EU membership is turned to Maltas