8 October 2003

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GRTU meets EU Commissioner for Agriculture Franz Fischler

A delegation from the General Retailers and Traders’ Union led by director-general Vince Farrugia and trade representatives of the banana and general fruit and fresh vegetables importers and retailers met EU Commissioner Franz Fischler during the special meeting held at the Chamber of Commerce.
GRTU representatives insisted on detailed explanations as to how the "safeguard clause" mentioned in the Accession Treaty is to operate. GRTU argues that it is in favour of funds being allocated to farmers to develop further their production but it objects to the use of these funds by the agricultural community to trade unfairly against Maltese traders.
GRTU explained that Maltese traders of fresh fruit and vegetables have suffered for decades from a regime of import controls and quotas that have suffocated the Maltese market and caused consumers to pay unreasonable taxation on imported fruits and vegetables and restricted the choice of fresh food available to the Maltese and tourist community. Maltese traders, GRTU argued were not prepared to accept an extended period of restrictions under the excuse of the "Safeguard Clause".

The association presented a memorandum to Commissioner Fischler on the particular difficulties that banana importers will be facing following Malta’s acceptance of the EU Banana Regime. GRTU argues that this agreement will effectively jeopardise Malta’s ability to import fresh bananas at a price acceptable to Maltese consumers.
Commissioner Fischler assured GRTU and other trade representatives that the "safeguard clause" will not be used by Malta to impose physical controls on imports as this is in breach of EU rules. The safeguard clause will only be used following EU authorisation and only in exceptional circumstances. Commissioner Fischler could not give details of how this will operate in practice, as the EU has no experience of how a safeguard mechanism works and the proposals of the Malta government have only been sent to Brussels on 3 October 2003 and he is not yet in a position to comment.
Commissioner Fischler assured GRTU that the funds available to Malta under the Rural Development assistance will not be used for creation of unfair competitive structures against imports from the EU producers and that Maltese traders interests’ will also be safeguarded.
On the Banana Regime, Commissioner Fischler promised GRTU that he will be providing answers to the numerous questions raised by GRTU in its memorandum. He assured Banana importers that the special case of Malta will be considered and that traders will not face a situation which is worse than what they have now. GRTU stated that is expects a situation that will be better for all Maltese traders, retailers and consumers.

Copyright © Newsworks Ltd. Malta.
Editor: Saviour Balzan
The Malta Financial & Business Times, Newsworks Ltd, Vjal ir-Rihan, San Gwann
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