Malta looks forward to stronger trade, diplomatic relations with Japan

Speaking at an event held at the Chamber of Commerce in Valletta, entitled, ‘Doing business with Japan’, minister Chris Cardona said that Malta Enterprise had shown constant interest in forging bilateral relations with Japanese institutions and companies.

Economy minister Chris Cardona said that Malta was looking forward to deepening diplomatic and trade relations with Japan and seeking out new areas where the countries could collaborate. 

Speaking at an event organized by the Chamber of Commerce entitled, ‘Doing Business with Japan’, Cardona said that Malta Enterprise had shown constant interest in forging bilateral relations with Japanese institutions and companies.

“Malta’s potential as a platform to the other 28 member states opens invaluable business opportunities in several key business areas,” he said, adding that Maltese businesses were also eager to tap into new business networks and opportunities.

He added that over 200 international companies have established manufacturing operations on the island, attesting to the country’s capability to adapt to demands of technology and production methods. 

“The range of products made in and exported by Malta to all over the world include electronic products, automotive parts, plastic and rubber products, medical products and aviation maintenance services, among others.”

He added that bilateral trade between the countries stood at between €140 million and €155 million per annum since 2010, with levels in 2013 reaching a record €246 million. 

Cardona explained that trade presented rather limited categories, with imports consisting mainly of motor vehicles, machinery and equipment, and some 74% of total exports to the country being fish and crustaceans in 2014 and 20% being electric machinery and equipment. 

“Very few Japanese are aware of Malta's potential as the location of their business base targeting the European market,” Cardona said, adding that Malta was relatively unknown compared to other member states.

Cardona said that Malta is leaving “no stone unturned” in its quest to continue deepening technological and skills capability.

“It is a win-win situation for both the Maltese and Japanese economies, and we would do well to think of ways to leverage opportunities,” he said, looking forward to the discussions at the seminar.

President of the Chamber Anton Borg said that the event marks 50 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries. He also announced a specialized committee to assist local enterprises to tap into the Japanese market. This committee will meet on a monthly basis and will also be a point of contact of local enterprises with Japanese professionals and companies currently in Malta.

Foreign affairs minister George Vella said the aim of this event was to further strengthen the economic and cultural relations between the countries. 

“Both countries have grown through democracy and dialogue to establish peace and stability,” he said, adding that Malta was looking to further its connection with other countries to strengthen its economy.

“We are committed to pursue existing avenues and to find new niches for further bonds,” he said, noting that tourist and student arrivals from the country had seen impressive rises.

He said the launch of a friendly parliamentary group could further strengthen diplomatic relations between the countries.

The Japanese Parliamentary Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs, Miki Yamada, also addressed the event and expressed her hopes that the two countries would continue to forge stronger bonds. 

“Humanitarian exchanges are also essential, with numbers of Japanese students here increasing every year,” she said, stressing her hope that this presence would continue to increase.

Ambassador of Japan to Malta Kazuyoshi Umemoto also attended the event and said that Malta’s strategic position had proved very important to the country. 

“Malta is one of the primary importers of Japanese products like Toyota and we also import high quality items like tuna, an essential ingredient to Japanese cuisine from the country,” he said, adding that over 20% of the country’s supply came from Malta.

He also expressed his hope that today's even would prove a stepping stone for further economic and political collaborations between the countries. 
The event was organised to inform Maltese businesses about the various opportunities of doing business with Japan which included presentations on the joint EU-Japan funded programmes, the EU-Japan FTA and its impact on Malta, the role of JETRO and Malta Enterprise and their incentives. Of particular interest was also the presentation of the success story of Konica Minolta in Malta. 

The event was met with a very good turnout from various sectors which included education, travel agencies, manufacturing, automobile industry, aquaculture, shipping and maritime among others.