TradeMalta has expanded its team in order to widen the range of expertise available to its clients, actual or potential.
Dr Mario Brincat has been entrusted with strengthening the entity’s Trade Information Service, particularly by helping exporters to deepen their understanding of the European Union’s myriad trade agreements and preferential schemes. Audrey Genovese, a former policy analysis consultant at Malta Enterprise, will focus on researching the sectors serviced by TradeMalta, with the goal of enhancing TradeMalta’s effectiveness in identifying and supporting potential exporters.
Both have extensive industry and research experience, having worked at Malta Enterprise, as well as well as other organisations and in December concluded a two-year stint with the Office of the Special Commissioner for Economic, Financial and Trade Relations with the UK, where they helped to monitor economic relation with the UK post-BREXIT, and the various trade-related problems that were being faced by Malta-based stakeholders and firms. And both are relishing “the challenge of contributing towards the same objective” – that of enabling more Maltese companies to internationalise – “but each from a different angle.”
They describe their new roles in the light of the economic direction Malta has taken over the past decades. “Since the late fifties Malta’s economic development model has been focused on the promotion of exports, particularly by attracting foreign direct investment (FDI) that would inject the skills, knowhow, technology and marketing channels required to generate exports on a scale sufficient both to create much needed employment and earn enough foreign exchange to cover imports of capital goods, raw materials and consumer goods,” Dr Brincat says.
“While the attraction of FDI continues to be critical to the economy, more recently greater efforts are being made to nurture indigenous exporters, hence the creation of METCO in the late 1980s and of TradeMalta a decade or so ago. The overall aim remains one and the same – to boost Malta’s export-led economic development and prosperity,” he continues to explain, outlining the difference between creating an environment hospitable to FDI, and, in contrast, encouraging local companies to internationalise: “TradeMalta assists companies during the process of internationalising their operations and becoming export ready. Different companies adopt different internationalisation strategies, so clients approaching new markets for their products/services need to be assisted on an individual basis. In contrast, FDI companies coming to Malta tend to be export-ready and internationalised from the start.”
Dr Brincat’s deep knowledge on the subject has been garnered through years of contact with industry players at Malta Enterprise, but also through his experience working for the Customs Department, where he was focused on EU and WTO-related matters. He also holds a PhD from the London School of Economics and Political Science.
Ms Genovese is also well-placed to enhance TradeMalta’s offering: throughout the course of her career with Malta Enterprise, she has worked on industrial and market strategies with a special focus on the attraction of foreign direct investment (FDI), and the promotion of international trade and economic development. One of her main tasks will be to identify Maltese producers who are currently focused on the local market but who may have the potential to internationalise their operations and enter international markets, although she acknowledges that “serving a foreign market is a different ball game to serving your home consumer.”
Elaborating, she explains that, “in a way, indigenous enterprises focused on the Maltese market are already operating on the European and international market, as they compete with foreign products in an open and liberalised home market. But they also enjoy some advantages; those among them operating in more specialised areas are less price sensitive and can capitalise on providing a unique product to a niche segment. Indigenous enterprises also stand at an advantage by selling locally as they know the local consumer well, enjoy a degree of consumer loyalty based on years of familiarity and are physically on the market, hence avoid additional costs and delays when shipping the final product.”
However, despite this, “those indigenous enterprises that are not active in a small, specialised market for a particular product or service, or enjoy an advantage due to transport costs or such, usually set off on a disadvantage as they are normally unable to match the scale of foreign operators.” Hence, she continues, they are “unable to exploit economies of scale.” As a result, “internationalisation and exports can be a way for indigenous companies grow their capacity and attain economies of scale, helping them secure lower per unit costs and become more competitive, all things equal” she attests.
Dr Brincat and Ms Genovese’s extensive knowledge of FDI across companies and sectors, stems from their research background. “This has helped us hit the ground running as we are generally aware of the characteristics as well as issues facing different productive sectors. We will also be taking some steps back into more granular research to get to know our clients better. This starts from detailed local sector research, including company-specific research,” she explains.
Dr Brincat adds that while “we often tend to focus our research on sectors - this is a good point of departure - this tends to obscure the fact that companies in the same sector are often radically different and require different solutions.” In Malta, he continues, “the problem is even more accentuated as industry is very fragmented. Research at a company-level means getting to know our client better, thus enabling TradeMalta to be more proactive and improving our ability to offer client-aligned solutions in the field of internationalisation.”
Ms Genovese concurs and asserts that by “working closely with TradeMalta’s Trade Information Services, we aim to extend the research arm of TradeMalta. The Trade Information Services unit already provides plenty of information to businesses that have the drive to internationalise - company information, trade statistics, tariff rates and import procedures, industry reports, information on regulatory procedures and so on, all of which are greatly appreciated by our clients. In a nutshell, we will be helping TradeMalta to offer the client-focused information needed for internationalisation to even more users.”
Looking ahead, Ms Genovese says that their priorities include “identifying more locally based companies with internationalisation potential and working with them. We plan to work on one sector at a time which enables a more focused approach both when it comes to researching the local market as well as foreign markets, starting with the food sector.”
The goal for the end of 2023, Dr Brincat concludes, is to attract “new locally based companies considering internationalisation and seeking TradeMalta services”, with “possibly having some planning to join us on trade missions and delegations in 2024!”