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Import regulations and customs duties  - Distribution - Transportation of goods - Standards - Patents and brands

Import regulations and customs duties

In accordance with its European Union membership since May, 1st of 2004, Malta applies the European Union trade policy like for instance antidumping or anti-subsidy measures. The European Union import regime applies to Malta. If Malta has adopted the main part of EU legislation on May, 1st of 2004, a transitory period has been granted to the country regarding some EU rules like freedom of movement for workers or cabotage inside some countries. Moreover, Malta has negotiated transitional period up to 2006 during which marketing authorisations for medicinal products granted under national legislation not compliant with EU law will still be valid in that country, but not in the rest of the EU. For further information about each candidate country’s compliance with the acquis, please consult the Enlargement of the EU Guide to the Negotiations published by the European Commission.

While the European Union has a rather liberal foreign trade policy, some products need import licenses. There are some restrictions, especially on farm products, following the implementation of the CAP (Common Agricultural Policy): the application of compensations on import and export of farm products, aimed at favouring the development of agriculture within the EU, implies a certain number of control and regulation systems of the goods entering the EU territory.

When being introduced in Malta, some products must be "CE" marked in respect of the European Directives adopted on the basis of the New Approach and the Global Approach. For further information, please consult the Guide to the Implementation of Directives based on New Approach and Global Approach.


Customs duties
Since its accession to the European Union on May, 1st of 2004, Malta has adopted the EU Common External Tariff. Consequently, trade with Malta is totally free from customs duties, provided that the country of origin of the goods is one of the other 24 EU Member States. Nevertheless, textile imports in Malta will undergo customs duties until 2009. When introducing goods into Malta, exporters shall fill in an intrastat declaration.

When the country of origin of the goods exported to Malta is not part of the European Union, customs duties are calculated Ad valorem on the CIF value of the goods, in accordance with the Common Customs Tariff (CCT).

Duties for non-European countries are relatively low, notably for manufactured goods (4.2% on average for the general rate), however textile, clothing items (high duties and quota system) and food-processing industry sectors (average duties of a 17.3% and numerous tariff quotas, PAC) still know protective measures.

In order to get exhaustive regulations and customs tariffs rates regarding their products, exporters shall refer to the TARIC code and its database, including all applicable customs duties and all customs trade policy measures for all the goods.

For further information, please consult the information document published by the European Commission about the impact of EU enlargement on customs policy.


Import taxes
Since 1989, the import tax was applicable to Malta for certain agricultural and industrial products in order to protect the domestic economy. Levy on industrial goods has been lifted from 1st January 2003. Tax on agricultural products would also be slashed on Malta becoming a member of the European Union on 1st May 2004. For more information on the amount of levy applicable, you can refer to the Local Manufactures (Promotion) Act.

Excise duty is applicable on the import of certain products like fuel, vehicles, cigarettes and alcohol. The exhaustive list of products subject to excise duty can be seen on the website of the customs office.

>> To get further information on VAT rates, please check the list of VAT rates applied within the European Union
>> More detailed information on excise duties is available concerning alcoholic beverages, tobacco products, energy products on the European Commission website.


Regulations governing payments
Currency transfers for import payments are liberalised.


The Business to Consumer (B to C) market
Malta does not have any natural resource wealth or any heavy industry: the country thus depends entirely on imports to meet its requirements of basic products, industrial products as well as consumer goods. Though Malta is a small market, it is characterised by the active presence of a multitude of trade companies, often family-run businesses but very competitive towards each other. These companies generally undertake import and distribution of goods at the same time. A few specialist importers also exist and they constantly keep on trying to expand their field of action by extending their product ranges. Retail outlets exist at the national level: a few supermarkets certainly exist and the distribution sector is going through a rapid modernising phase but large-scale distribution has not yet completely emerged in Malta.

The Business to Business (B to B) market
A company exporting to Malta does not legally require a local agent. Orders can be directly taken from the importing companies.
However, it may be required to call for a domestic representation which could be of two types: a sales representative or a trade agent. The sales representatives have a license given by the Chamber of Commerce of Malta. Trade agents run their business on their own names. Agency contracts are very commonly used and they help you to learn fast how much potential a product has on this market.


Transportation of goods

By road
The rate of development of the road network in Malta is much lower than the European average. Despite a high urbanisation level, Malta has less than 100 km of highways. Public transport in Malta is carried out by the Malta Transport Authority, an organisation working under the Ministry of Transport. In order to know about the co-ordinates of the main transport organisations in Malta, you can consult the report Road transport regulating and enforcement bodies in Malta made by the OCDE.

By rail
There are no railways in Malta.

By sea
Malta has the 5th largest merchant fleet in the world. At the end of the year 2002, the Maltese flag of convenience had 3,143 ships. In 2002, Malta registered the arrival of around 30,000 ships (except leisure boats).
Sea Malta Company Ltd is the national marine navigation company. Founded in 1973, the company regularly operates a number of ports and offers a range of marine facilities like trans-shipment, shipping, storing, chartering and soutage.
The regulatory authority of the marine sector in Malta is the Malta Maritime Agency.

Marine activity in Malta is concentrated around the free port (Malta Freeport) of Marsaxlokk. This freeport has been increasingly developing since it was put into service in 1988. It has become one of the main trans-shipment centres of the Mediterranean region. Its geographical location, located at a 6-km distance from the international airport of Malta, makes it particularly attractive. All products imported by a company having its office in the freeport are exempted from customs duties. Otherwise, products imported into the country through any other port or entry point are subject to customs duties.

Finally, there is an internal marine link between Malta and Gozo.

By air
The international airport of Luqa is located at a distance of 6 km from the centre of Valletta.

Air Malta operates regular flights to 38 destinations located in Europe, U.S.A., Maghreb and the Middle East. Other major foreign airlines regularly operate their flights to Malta. Air Malta has a lion's share of this market, with 53% of the passengers going out of Malta flying by Air Malta. The destinations which are not directly covered by Air Malta are accessible via London, Rome and other big European cities.


Becoming a member of the European Union in 2004, the Maltese technical standards and restrictions are now more and more in conformity with the European standards. The organisation responsible for defining technical standards is the Malta Standards Authority (MSA).The MSA is an affiliated member of the European Standardisation Committe and a member of the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO).

Patents and brands

The organisation responsible for the protection of brands, industrial drawings and patents in Malta is the Industrial Property Registration Directorate.

Malta is a member of the OMPI.

Malta signed the Convention of Paris for the protection of industrial property, the Convention of Berne for the protection of literary and artistic works and also the Universal Convention of authors' rights.

Texts currently applying to patents/brands

  Text Date entered into law Period of validity Comment
Copyrights Copyright Act 2000 .. ..
Patents Patents Act 2002 20 years
Brands Trademarks Act 2001 10 years renewable after 10 years.


Last modified in 2006 - ongoing update
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