The Malta Chamber of Commerce and Enterprise

The Malta Chamber of Commerce and Enterprise was established as a voluntary constituted body and officially recognised in 1848. It was established on the Anglo-Saxon – private law status model, independent from government or the public sector, with voluntary membership.

Two similar organisations existed prior to The Malta Chamber of Commerce Enterprise: the first was the University, composed of senior citizens and was responsible, among other things, for the importation and storage of grain at a time when piracy was rife in the Mediterranean. Leading businessmen were members of this institution. The second came into being shortly after the arrival of the British in Malta in 1800. Referred to as the “Commercial Rooms”, it was housed in the premises later occupied by the Lyceum and now the Arts and Design Centre in Merchants Street, Valletta. Detailed minutes of the meetings of the “Commercial Rooms” have been preserved at the Chamber’s offices and give a clear picture of trading conditions at the time.

In 1848, the Governor of the island, Sir Richard More O’Ferrall, took a keen interest in commerce. It was due to his strong desire to make Malta a spearhead of British trade in the Mediterranean that the reorganisation of the commercial community arose and the Malta Chamber of Commerce and Enterprise was born. 

Sir Richard found great help in the person of Sir Agostino Portelli, K.C.M.G., a leading merchant who was also a politician and who held a seat in the first Council of Government of Malta. Sir Agostino became the first President of the Chamber. 

The Chamber was represented by nomination in the various Councils of Government that followed. The first self-governing Constitution in 1921 gave the Chamber the right to elect two senators. Incidentally, the first Prime Minister under the 1921 Constitution, Comm. Joseph Howard, O.B.E., was also a former President of the Chamber. 

In 1857, the Exchange Buildings, constructed on its present site in Republic Street, Valletta were inaugurated.

The Chamber celebrated its 160th Anniversary in 2008.

Malta Federation of Industry

The Federation of Industry, or Federation of Maltese Industries as it was then known, was founded in 1946 only one year after the end of World War II.  Malta had suffered from the miseries of war in a big way when it was besieged by air and sea.  But the Maltese had the spirit of survival imbued in their veins, and the commercial sector was no exception to this rule.

A Trade Section was established within The Malta Chamber of Commerce and Enterprise at the height of the war, in 1942.  In the short lived association of entrepreneurs within the Chamber, they considered that the situation was not satisfactory enough to defend the special interests of the manufacturing industry.  There was a first move for reform of the Chamber in January 1946 when the Executive Committee of the Industries Trade Section wrote to the Council about their special interests as distinct from other sections that formed part of the Chamber.

Leading the main thrust, aimed at giving an authoritative voice to the Trade Section, was Elias Zammit.  An effort to settle the dispute was made but a breaking point was reached on 2 May, 1946 when a motion to give more autonomy and a stronger voice to the Trade Section was defeated in the Chamber’s Council.  On 29 May, 1946 the Executive Committee of the Trade Sections resigned en bloc. 

The transitory Executive Committee met for the first time on 3 June, 1946.  It was composed of Elias Zammit, A.J. Grech, R. Patrick, Dr. W.J. Chalmers, G. Portanier and S.L. Mizzi. The Memorandum and Articles of the new Association were signed on 17 June, 1946.  Within four months official recognition was given by Government when on 25 September, 1946 a letter to this affect was received.

The Federation quickly established parallel contacts with overseas Chambers of Commerce and appointed a number of foreign correspondents. Initially its activities, objectives and services were primarily to ensure that Government understood the needs, intentions and problems of Malta’s manufacturing industry. 

Like the Chamber, the Federation was an independent, non-political organisation, financed mainly by voluntary membership.

The Federation celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2006.

Merger of the Malta Chamber of Commerce and Enterprise with the Malta Federation of Industry

Globalisation, Malta’s accession to the European Union in 2004 and corresponding transformations in Malta’s economic and commercial environment set the background for a merger between the Malta Chamber of Commerce and Enterprise and the Malta Federation of Industry. The forces described above were further accentuated by the country’s eventual accession to the eurozone in 2008.The elimination of trade protectionism as well as the introduction of the euro as the national currency brought about a natural progression wherein policies of the two organisations moved towards full convergence and much common ground was achieved. The two organisations were regularly adopting similar stances on various national issues of direct economic and commercial interest. 

Further close collaboration was successfully achieved in the setting up of the Malta Business Foundation in 1996 and more recently the joint investment in the La Valette Business Centre in Brussels. Against this background the officers of the Chamber and FOI – organisations which both exist to create conditions favourable to the growth of the private sector – realised the strategic need to join forces to provide more effective leadership and representation of member interests in this rapidly-evolving scene. Discussions, which began between representatives of the two bodies nearly three years ago, quickly revealed the benefits to be achieved by a stronger voice in national forums such as the Malta Council for Economic and Social Development (MCESD) influencing national policy.   Following the signing on 4 January 2008 of a Memorandum of Understanding on the terms and conditions of the proposed merger, in the presence of the Prime Minister, the Chamber and the Federation set up a Task Force to make the necessary preparations and pave the way for the merger.  Preparations involved a vast effort from both organisations, in terms of the establishment of the new Statute, general administration, policy, and most importantly sensitivity to the various sectoral interests that existed within the two business organisations.

Following the Extraordinary General Meetings held on the 24th and 25th September by the Federation and Chamber respectively, and both organisations’ members voting unanimously in favour, the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry came into being on January 3rd, 2009. 

The new organisation aims to have the expertise, member-involvement mechanisms,  management and networks of access to local and European policy-makers to provide enhanced ‘hands-on’ services to individual members; to mobilise sectors, associations and other groupings to pursue common agendas; to effectively respond to current issues and protect members’ interests; and – most fundamentally – to shape the policies which affect Maltese entrepreneurs. The new organisation provides a visible, prominent, strong and single point of reference for the other stakeholders, including government, EU bodies, foreign business representatives in the sectors of trade, manufacturing and services. In the new organisation, similar levels of service offerings and opportunity, according to membership categories, are provided to each member irrespective of the legacy organisation to which that member belonged.