There has been a rapid increase in Malta-China trade in recent years, largely due to Maltese demand for Chinese exports. In this respect, the country is similar to most of its European neighbors – relatively well-off by global standards and with a healthy appetite for consumer goods.
Exports to Malta topped US$166 million in 2010, up 78% from 2004 levels. Trade flowing in the other direction has grown even faster, rising fourfold to US$81.71 million last year, albeit from a much lower base.
With Malta keen to develop ties in China, there are high hopes for inbound investment – even if as nothing more than a conduit for Chinese goods and capital entering Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Leisure Clothing, a Chinese textiles firm, already uses the country as a staging post for shipments made to brands sold in Europe. King Long, a Chinese bus and coach manufacturer, will follow suit.
There is an interesting circularity to this trend. After Beijing and Valletta established diplomatic relations in 1972, Chinese investment led to the construction of Red China Dock, which remains the largest such facility in Malta. Should firms from China use Malta as a platform for commercial activities in the region, the ships that carry their goods to port would be sheltered by a breakwater that only exists thanks to Chinese capital.