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Commercial

Doing Business in Malta

The Country Commercial Guide (CCG) provides a comprehensive annual overview of Malta's commercial environment through economic and market analysis and identifies the sectors which offer the best prospects for American exporters.

The CCG is available to download from this link. (Adobe Acrobat Reader is required to open the .pdf file.)

The following information is extracted from the Country Commercial Guide 2010:

Market Overview      

• Malta, a member of the European Union since 2004, offers good business and financial services, excellent telecommunications and flight connections, availability of highly skilled personnel, labor costs that are competitive with other western European countries, a sound legal system and a low crime rate. 

• Malta’s geographical location, fiscal and other investment incentives, political stability and modern infrastructure make it a natural hub for companies seeking to do business in southern Europe and northern Africa.  In its 2006 report, the UN listed Malta as a ‘frontrunner’ in the high FDI potential category.  More than 200 international companies have established operations in Malta.

• During 2009, the U.S. was Malta’s second largest trading partner outside the EU, accounting for 5.4% of total trade..

• During 2009, The U.S. supplied 3.02% of Malta’s total imports and bought 9.35% of Malta’s total exports.

• Trade between Malta and its key trading partners was greatly influenced by the presence of ST Microelectronics in Malta.  ST imported substantial amounts of semiconductor materials from and exported significant amounts of finished semiconductors to these countries.

• Key items Malta imported from the U.S. include: aircraft engines and parts, water purification equipment, parts for electrical power generation, and cereals, mainly for the manufacture of bread.  In addition to semiconductors, Malta exported rubber and rubber articles, automotive switches, medical devices and products, toys and games.

• Malta joined the Eurozone in January 2008.  Since May 2005, Malta’s currency the Maltese Lira (LM) had been fixed to the Euro at a rate of 2.35 EUR to 1.00 LM under the European Exchange Rate Mechanism II.
Market Challenges       

• Malta is a small island in the middle of the Mediterranean with around 400,000 inhabitants.  Therefore the market is very small.  For many companies that manufacture for export, Malta serves as a stepping stone to nearby markets.

• However, lack of direct flights with the United States and the long distance involved in shipping goods directly from the U.S. has traditionally limited the amount of bilateral trade.  (Although there is a direct shipping connection to Malta for containerized shipments, partial shipments must be shipped through neighboring European ports.)  Local importers have succeeded in overcoming these difficulties by importing high value-low volume items and/or source the goods from U.S. subsidiaries or associates in Europe or other nearby states.

Market Opportunities     

• Sectors: Information Communications Technology (ICT), Financial Services, Oil and Gas, Education, Tourism, infrastructure and general construction, Information Handling, Pharmaceuticals and Medical Equipment, Automotive components, Light Engineering, Alternative Energy, Research & Development, aviation maintenance; registration of ships sand aircrafts, Franchising and security products.

• Malta’s full potential for becoming a center for international business in the Euro-Med region is gaining momentum; a growing number of companies are using Malta as a base for operations in North Africa – particularly Tunisia and Libya.

• Services represent the largest and fastest growing sector of the Maltese economy.  Banking, investment, insurance, communications, software development, tourism, ship-repair/aircraft servicing, health care services, aviation, logistics, film industry, professional services and back office operations are the largest service sub-sectors.

• Among agricultural products, the best U.S. prospect is in grain products, particularly red winter and soft wheat.

Market Entry Strategy    

• The application of uniform EU standards and certificates makes it easier for U.S. firms with prior experience doing business in Europe to expand their business interests in Malta.

• Although not required, most foreign suppliers appoint an agent or distributor to market their products in Malta.  Franchising, licensing and joint venture agreements are also common.  Several companies have chosen to set up an operating/regional office.

• For public sector procurement, U.S. companies are advised to partner with Maltese companies to increase their chance of success.

• U.S. firms considering investing in Malta should review the relevant regulations with the quasi-government investment promotion agency Malta Enterprise. http://www.maltaenterprise.com

Business Customs       

In general, what is considered good business practice in the United States also applies when doing business in Malta.  Business people in Malta appreciate prompt replies to their inquiries, and expect all correspondence to be acknowledged.  Conservative business attire is recommended at all times.  Business appointments are also required, and visitors are expected to be punctual.

Maltese buyers appreciate quality and service, but are also interested in delivery times and price.  Care must be taken to honor delivery dates and provide prompt after-sales service.

While Maltese is the first official language, English is also an official language.  Widely spoken and understood, virtually all business is transacted in English.

Visa Requirements      

Every U.S. traveler to Malta must have a valid U.S. passport.  No visa is required for U.S. citizens visiting Malta for less than 3 months but one is required for longer stays.  On arrival in Malta, American citizens normally will be asked how long they intend to stay in Malta. 

U.S. citizens planning to work in Malta must first obtain a work visa from the Immigration Section of the Police Department in Malta.  For further information concerning entry requirements for Malta, travelers can contact the Maltese Embassy at 2017 Connecticut Avenue N.W., Washington D.C. 20008; tel: (202) 462-3611 or 462-3612 or fax (202) 387-5470 or the Maltese Consulate in New York City; tel (212) 725-2345.

Malta joined the U.S Visa Waiver Program (VMP) on December 30, 2008. Maltese citizens are eligible to travel to the U.S. without a visa under the Visa Waiver Program if the following conditions are met:

- The visit is less than 90 daysf
- The visit is for tourism or business
- The traveler holds a valid biometric passport
- The traveler registers for and receives an approved travel authorization, or ESTA, by entering their travel details at https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov prior to commencing travel
- The traveler has a valid return ticket f
- If arriving by air or sea, the traveler will arrive on a regularly scheduled carrier.

Maltese citizens who do not have a biometric passport may continue to travel to the United States if they are in possession of a valid U.S. visa. 

Maltese citizens may apply for a U.S. visa at the American Embassy, Development House, St Anne Street, Floriana, Malta, but they should first follow the instructions for visa applicants contained in the American Embassy website (see below). U.S. Companies that require travel of Maltese citizens to the United States for business purposes should advise the visa applicants to consult the website.

State Department Visa Website: http://travel.state.gov/visa/

United States Visas.gov: http://www.unitedstatesvisas.gov/

Consular/Visa Section, U.S. Embassy, Valletta, Malta: http://valletta.usembassy.gov/visa_intro.html

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