‘No better time for businesses to venture abroad’ – Liz Barbaro Sant

Source: Malta Business Weekly


LIZ BARBARO SANT, vice president of the Malta Chamber of Commerce, was appointed as the new chairperson of TradeMalta, earlier this year, Dayna Camilleri Clarke discusses her roles and how TradeMalta can help businesses go global.

As Chairperson, what are your aims for TradeMalta and how do you see it developing?

TradeMalta provides an excellent opportunity for Maltese businesses to explore international business opportunities. We have to forge new and ambitious partnerships and open up innovative markets for Maltese goods and services. But while Malta punches above our weight in exports, we also punch significantly below our potential. We aim to continue to open markets and unlock opportunities for businesses especially in East & West African countries which have considerable unexploited potential in trade. Libya is also a very important market for Maltese businesses albeit depending on the stability of the country. We will continue to assist companies in other countries but we need to prioritise. We also plan to strengthen the in-country support. Government also has a vital role in helping businesses to export, by using its unique assets such as its international network and government-to-government relationships.

In May you were appointed as chairperson of TradeMalta; how has the experience been so far?

My experience to date has been a positive one in spite of the situation being challenging.  However, during challenging times we still perceive trade as a window of opportunity for diversification and growth of Maltese companies. It is truly a pleasure to work with Anton Buttigieg, our CEO, and the rest of the team who are talented and inspiring. The Board is made up of a formidable array of passionate community leaders with a veritable storehouse of business acumen.

As vice president of The Malta Chamber, what is your role within this entity?

I mainly focus on the internationalisation aspect and continue to further strengthen the already existent excellent collaboration between government, Trade Malta and The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry. I also enjoy enticing new members to The Malta Chamber. There is so much work behind the scenes which helps businesses of different sizes. Also, it is extremely valuable for building connections and learning about other industries.

Being so involved in TradeMalta and The Malta Chamber, two business-focused entities, when or how would you say your interest in business developed?

Internationalisation has always occupied a special place in my heart – I love it, so when the opportunity presented itself to be part of this incredible team, I was grateful for the opportunity. As many of you may know, Trade Malta was formed as a public-private partnership between the Government of Malta, currently under the remit of the Ministry for the Economy and Industry and the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry

You’ve been part of TradeMalta for over three years now – what have been the biggest challenges so far? Has the pandemic had any part in this?  

It may seem counterintuitive to talk about expanding overseas when local businesses are grappling with the pandemic, but for the many firms venturing abroad, it seems there is no better time.

The pandemic has led to certain constraints, especially on cross-border travel, but it has also given rise to new ways of doing business. And support for internationalisation, whether from the government or industry partners, is as present as ever. That being said, we know internationalisation may still seem daunting and this is why we are here to help navigate a business environment that is dynamic and ever-changing. Access to finance, lack of working capital and cover for the financial risks of exporting and payments is always a major challenge.

Do you feel the FATF greylisting impacted local export activity?

There are many factors at play here and it remains unclear how negative Malta’s placement on the grey list will eventually turn out to be at this stage.

How can our readers in the business community benefit from services offered by TradeMalta?

We will help them overcome trade barriers, especially in emerging and developing markets where barriers are likely to be greater, create international networks and collaborate with other businesses with the help of our ambassadors. Internationalisation is expensive and resource-intensive, however, various forms of financial and non-financial assistance are available. Trade Malta offers access to industry knowledge and training programmes.

In trying to reach the global market, what are some key things one should keep in mind?

Becoming an exporter can put you on a fast-track to growth, but it can be a big challenge to get started and achieve success. You have to think about a host of complicated questions – everything from picking the right target market to logistics, product adaptation, pricing, customs, marketing and your company’s export-readiness.

The long list of challenges may seem intimidating but you can tackle it by taking steps to prepare your business and adopt a strategic approach. Many business owners have no strategy and chase every lead. With a strategic approach, you can be proactive and improve your results. Companies should evaluate whether or not expansion is indeed beneficial or if it will only take away from their core business. It may be better to serve one country well than several countries poorly.

Take a look at finances and honestly ask yourself if you have the funds to support the initial investment and sustain the growth you are forecasting. If the answer to both is yes, then it may be the right time to grow. Remember, the success will not be immediate, so you’ll need to factor that into your plans.

Are there any upcoming projects or events which TradeMalta has in store for us?

We are currently updating our market priorities and potential report and once this is finalised we will plan trade missions and focus on markets where the provision of Trade Malta’s support is likely to be most needed.

Tags: internationalisation |