01 February 2006

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BOV chairman calls for trade liberalisation in services

A call for the liberalisation of services, described as the last bastion of protection by the chairman of Bank of Valletta Roderick Chalmers at the international conference discussing the Euro-Mediterranean free trade area last week.
“Trade is not just about the physical movement of goods – it is also about services – and it is therefore equally important that progress is made in the liberalisation of trade in services – so often the last bastion of protection for vested interests. Economic experts believe that the liberalisation of the services sector will contribute to closing the economic gap between the North–South divide,” Chalmers told conference delegates.
The conference was organised by EMCS Ltd to discuss developments and opportunities of the Euro-Mediterranean Free Trade Area.
Addressing over 120 delegates from Malta and other neighbouring Mediterranean and European countries, Chalmers explained that the Euro-Med process is not only about building improved trade relationships between the European Union and the individual Mediterranean countries “but also about strengthening the multilateral trading ties between the Mediterranean countries themselves – the so called – South-South dimension. The expansion of South - South trade links in the region is regarded as being of vital economic interest for the Mediterranean countries, both for inter-regional trade and for improving prospects for foreign direct investment into the region,” said Chalmers.
“The small size of a number of banks in the Euro-Med region – which again points to the urgent need for the liberalisation of trade and services – calls for this liberalisation that would enable the necessary South-South cross border consolidation to take place enabling financial institutions to “bulk up” in a manner that would enable them to support growing international and inter-regional trade. Liberalisation of banking and financial services would have to be accompanied by a strong component of regulatory convergence between the EU single market rules and those in the partner countries, and substantial benefits could flow from such convergence. From Malta’s and BOV’s experience, we have, in the relatively short period since Malta joined the EU, already seen some evidence of financial services capital flows into Malta – and this resulting directly from the liberalisation of the market, and the convergence of our regulatory regime with that of the EU,” added Chalmers.
The two-day conference attracted the participation of advisors, traders and importers to and from countries within the Mediterranean countries, trade financing specialists, manufacturers and exporters, bankers and insurance institutions and professionals from financial and legal institutions, public sector officials, audit firms and business advisory firms.

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