Croatian, Maltese chambers of commerce sign cooperation agreement

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The Croatian Chamber of Commerce (HGK) and the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry on Monday signed a cooperation agreement in Zagreb as part of a business forum, underscoring the big potential for cooperation, particularly in tourism. The agreement was signed by the chambers' presidents, Luka Burilovic and Frank Farrugia respectively, in the presence of Croatian President Kolinda-Grabar Kitarovic and Malta's President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca, who is on an official visit to Croatia.

The business forum attracted about 80 representatives of Croatian and Maltese companies and institutions in the construction industry, tourism, the furniture industry, transport, energy, environment protection and business consulting.

Grabar-Kitarovic said that within the EU framework, Croatia and Malta have recognised common topics and initiatives directed toward the sea and maritime affairs.

As part of an integrated maritime policy, we advocate economic growth, improving the competitiveness of Europe's maritime economy and, in particular, employment and development in a sustainable and environmentally acceptable way, Grabar-Kitarovic said.

The tourism sector, she said, is important for society, development and employment in both countries and it is worth having in mind that European tourism is faced with bigger and bigger challenges, from political ones because of terrorism and migration, to economic and environmental ones.

She recalled that Croatia's Tourism Minister Gari Cappelli has initiated the establishment of a single European fund and task force for tourism within the European Union. That would facilitate the use of European funds to finance investments and  sustainable development in tourism, to reduce effects from climate change, for education and other areas that are important for the development of European tourism. Malta's Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi was one of the first to support the initiative. 

Grabar-Kitarovic is convinced that the initiative would boost tourism and investment cooperation and more active development of Croatian-Maltese economic relations.

She considers that Malta could be an interesting partner for Croatia to enter third markets, particularly northern Africa and the Middle East, while on the other hand, Croatia could provide use of the Rijeka and Ploce ports for Maltese exports to central and southeast European countries.

I believe that exploiting these trade advantages could strengthen both sides, she said. 

President Coleiro Preca said that there was great potential for economic cooperation between Croatia and Malta and that joint efforts should be made to diversify trade and increase its scope. As far as Malta is concerned, she mentioned pharmaceuticals, precision engineering, mechanical engineering, plastic products, software development and the toy industry.

She said that she came to Zagreb with representatives of Air Malta with aim of exploring the possibility of cooperation with Croatia Airlines, which she is convinced would serve as a catalyst for tourism development and a greater number of people travelling between both countries.

HGK president Burilovic explained that economic cooperation with Malta has not been satisfactory for some time. He said that after trade decreased in 2008 and, particularly in 2016, he was pleased to see that it had increased by 112% in the first eleven months of last year. "There is more room to expand economic cooperation," he said.

The president of the Maltese chamber, Farrugia, said that he shared the ambition shown today to continue building cooperation between Croatia and Malta and that the agreement signed today was a new chapter in that regard.

Following economic expansion and full employment, Farrugia said, Malta's economy is offering employment opportunities for Croatian citizens in financial services, health care, IT, the construction industry and real estate and of course tourism.

Malta is faced with a lack of qualified workers and this year it needs to employ an additional 12,500, he said. 

Trade between Croatia and Malta in the first eleven months of 2017 amounted to 67.6 million euros, of which 63 million were Croatian exports, mainly petroleum oil, yachts, corn and timber to Malta, while importing from Malta excavation machines, yachts and other vessels, pharmaceuticals and gauging instruments.