The Malta Business Bureau and the European Commission Representation in Malta organised a webinar on the current open consultation by the European Commission on a renewed trade policy for a stronger Europe.
Daniel Debono, EU Affairs Manager of the Malta Business Bureau, who also moderated the event, outlined several issues that have increased the volatility in international trade in the last years. He also explained the relevance of EU trade policy for Malta and Maltese businesses, in view of our small open economy, which makes Malta dependent almost entirely on trade for both imports and exports.
Debono also emphasised how Malta requires a strong EU to obtain the best conditions for Maltese businesses when negotiating trade agreements with third countries. Malta benefits strongly from the EU’s strong leverage of negotiating on behalf of a market of 500 million people.
The main speaker, Peter Sandler, Director at the European Commission’s DG Trade stated, “the ongoing Trade Policy Review will update our policy priorities and approach. Today, people and businesses across the EU face the impact of COVID-19, growing protectionism from some countries and the big challenges of climate change and the digital transition. Small, outward looking economies like Malta know better than most the importance of keeping trade flowing and markets open. This review will deliver the policies to ensure that this happens, and that it does so in a sustainable way.”
The event was also addressed by David Sammut, Director of the International Economic Policy Department at the Ministry of Finance, who ascertained that international trade and foreign direct investment is a key to Malta’s economic success.
“Today’s global nature of production and consumption of goods necessitates an EU Trade Policy framework that secures free trade and safeguards our interests. In so doing, we have to observe the dynamic nature of globalisation, including economic, environmental, social and geopolitical aspects in our relations with third countries. Given the relevance of this topic for the Maltese society and its economy, a wide participation in this process is encouraged to make Malta’s views heard and to give direction in the decision-making process at the EU level,” he said.
Finally, it was Trade Malta’s CEO, Anton Buttigieg, who from a more practical experience working with local companies looking to internationalise, commented, “Businesses are going through one of the most challenging periods ever. Prior to the pandemic, the global trading system as we know it, was already going through serious fundamental changes. COVID-19 brought about an unprecedented level of uncertainty for businesses and further exacerbated the shifts within the global trade regime. These are devastating shocks for small and micro enterprises, which are the backbone of the Maltese economy. A renewed EU trade policy regime must promote a level playing field that ensures fair and open trade opportunities for our entrepreneurs.”
The discussion covered various current topics in international trade, including the impact of US-China trade tensions on European business; the growing importance of Africa for trading with the EU but also as a part-solution to migration pressures; the increasing role of e-commerce and digital trade; as well as the need to implement EU free trade agreements nationally more effectively.
The webinar event was supported by the Enterprise Europe Network.