Honourable Parliamentary Secretary,
It is a pleasure to once again welcome all of our friends from the Chinese business community, and also all the members from the Maltese business community, who are attending this business forum.
From the outset, I would like to thank Madam Sophie Chen and Mr Michael Bianchi representing the President’s Trust Foundation, together with my Office led by Mr Karm Briffa, for the intense preparations to facilitate today’s important event.
This is an excellent opportunity to continue to build on our strong legacy of bilateral relations, which began in 1972, when former Premier Mintoff was the first Western leader to visit the People’s Republic of China. and Malta was given the same warm welcome as any large country.
It was a time when Malta was developing its industrial and manufacturing sectors …. it was from this early stage that both of our countries realised that the excellent diplomatic and political relations between us should be translated into tangible connections.
Nothing can be more tangible, than the development of business opportunities, collaborations, and partnerships.
I am convinced that this historical Business Forum will provide ample opportunities for all of you, to find the right business collaborators.
While governments are excellent enablers and facilitators, it is people in business and entrepreneurs, who bring the necessary creativity and innovation, to create potential partnerships and collaborations.
As you are all aware, this is an exciting time for Malta. Over the past years, Malta has been registering significant economic growth.
According to the latest Economic Forecast, published by the European Commission, economic projections for Malta are, and I quote, “very positive… with strong GDP growth, which is set to continue.” End quote.
In fact, Malta is consistently registering one of the highest GDP growth rates in the European Union, with growth of 5.4 per cent at the end of last year.
Let me also reiterate my government’s statements, made during the 10th Session of the Malta-China Joint Commission on Trade and Economic Cooperation, which clearly states that the location of Malta makes it ideal, to form part of the ‘One Belt, One Road’ policy of China.
Undoubtably, there is a strong economic complementarity between Malta and China. Maltese authorities acknowledge and appreciate that the Chinese vision for global business has the potential to positively impact the economies of many countries.
There is already a strong legacy of successful Chinese investment in Malta. Examples include the Red China Dock, the Breakwater, the Freeport, and most recently, the collaboration between Shanghai Electric Power and Enemalta.
Another very important point to note is that Malta is one of the founding members of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.
Therefore, it is clear that the relationship between our countries and our authorities is already firmly built, upon a foundation of mutual trust and respect.
I am convinced, and I know that you share my conviction, that Malta is an essential partner in the trade links that we can continue to strengthen, together, between Asia, Europe, and Africa, by exploring Malta’s geo-strategic position, as a perfect hub which connects these regions.
In this regard, let me also speak about the investment that we are already making in Africa. Malta has always had a particular connection with the African continent, due to our geographical proximity and also, our cultural links with the countries of North Africa.
Therefore, the Maltese are ideal collaborators, to enhance deeper relations with the African continent.
Malta, like China, perceives Africa as the next emerging economy.
As we all know, the number of young people under the age of 25, in Africa, numbers over 60% of the African continent’s total population, and presently, African young people of working age make up 19% of the global population.
Moreover, by 2050, one in four people in the world will be Africans.
In this context, let me commend the foresight of the President of China, who reiterated at the opening of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, last September, plans for Chinese investment in Africa which amount to 60 billion dollars.
China is well known for its pragmatic approach to global affairs, and this approach is shared, in many ways, by the Maltese.
Moreover, on a bilateral level, despite our geographical distance, Malta and China have created a close historical relationship.
Over the last five decades, we have forged stronger agreements in diverse sectors, such as investment, tourism, education, and culture.
China is one of Malta’s largest trading partners, and this is reflected in the fact that commercial interests between China and Malta are so varied. I am also pleased to note that the trade deficit between us has narrowed.
Furthermore, the flourishing of the tourism industry in Malta has benefitted from increased visitors from China.
This is a perfect indication of the growing friendship that is taking root between our respective peoples, because I believe that tourism is so much more than an economic operation. It is also an opportunity for person-to-person connections, and therefore, leads to greater openness and contact.
Despite all this, undoubtably there is much more potential for both of our countries, through our respective business sectors, to continue to explore all opportunities, to further our collaborations.
Let me also take this opportunity to reaffirm my government’s support for the ongoing dialogue between China and the European Union. We must be constructive in our endeavours, and keep channels of communication open, because we are both hardworking and resilient peoples.
This is why I believe that we must keep up the excellent momentum, which has been achieved so far between our countries, to open the doors of opportunity, dialogue, and cooperation.
Let me once more extend my government’s invitation, for the business communities of both our countries to take advantage of the many opportunities that exist between us.
All of these developments make it clear that we have already done a lot of good work, to pave the road for prosperous collaborations between our nations.
Now is the time to take that potential, which has been so clearly identified, and to go even further.
Malta’s geo-strategic potential is immense, due to my country’s unique position in the Euro-Mediterranean Region. As a Member State of the European Union, Malta has access to a market of over 500 million people.
Moreover, as a leading member of the Commonwealth of Nations, Malta also has excellent connections to 53 countries, which comprises a total of 2.4 billion people. This translates into one third of the world’s population.
Malta’s role is paralleled by China’s leadership in Asia, and beyond, and its impressive role and influence in the international community.
Finally, I am convinced that this opportunity, which this Business Forum is creating, together with the meetings with my Prime Minister and ministers, along with today’s Business to Business meetings, will reap the desired benefits.
I augur that today’s Business to Business meetings will further connect you, and result in your prosperity, and the prosperity of our respective peoples.
Thank you for your attention, and good luck to you all.