The agricultural sector is small, with potatoes being the only major export commodity and although Malta is an island, the fishing industry is also relatively insignificant. With very few natural resources, governments have sought to develop the economy through tourism and export-dedicated manufacturing.
Tourism currently accounts for over a quarter of Malta’s foreign exchange earnings. The industrial sector includes textiles, footwear and clothing , plastics, printing, electronic components and electrical equipment.
The old naval dockyards used by the British have now been converted to operate as a commercial shipyard. Malta has developed close economic links with Libya, which has invested heavily in property and commerce on the island as well as supplying the bulk of the oil that meets the island’s energy needs.
France has become the principal market for exports from Malta, followed by the USA, Germany, Singapore, the United Kingdom and Italy. The main economic policy issue under debate in Malta is relations with the EU and the country’s application for membership. The conservative Nationalist Party (PN) favours joining while the Maltese Labour Party is strongly opposed to membership. After a sudden withdrawal in 1996 of its original application, the PN administration reapplied during 1998. The PN went on to win the 2003 poll, and Malta's membership was endorsed in March 2003 by popular referendum. Negotiations progressed smoothly and Malta joined the EU, along with 9 other countries in May 2004.
English is widely spoken in business circles and, on the whole, Maltese businesspeople have a conservative approach to business. Punctuality is expected and dress must be quite smart. The best months for business visits are from October to May.
Office hours: Monday-Friday 0830-1245 hrs and 1430-1730 hrs, Saturday 0830-1200 hrs. Some smaller offices close 1300-1600 hrs, opening again later.
The following organisations can offer advice:
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Telephone number: 2124 2191
Malta Chamber of Commerce
Telephone number: 233 873
Fax number: 245 223