Conference: Why are Chambers of Commerce in the Mediterranean and Europe so important also during this crisis and the post COVID-19?

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The Association of Chambers of Commerce and Industry of the Mediterranean (ASCAME) held its first online conference ‘Why are the Chambers of Commerce so important also during this crisis and the post COVID-19?’. The online event, which took place on July 9, counted on the participation of a large number of spectators, who in addition to attending to the key issues explained the speakers, involved in a final debate on the present and future of the Chambers of Commerce after the Coronavirus pandemic.

The entire private sector, and especially its intermediary institutions such as Chambers of Commerce, are deeply concerned about the social, economic and political consequences of the pandemic. It is a huge, unexpected and tragic shock to public life, health, social welfare and economic activity worldwide, particularly in Mediterranean countries.

For centuries, Chambers of Commerce have been a key driver in the development of millions of companies and have worked with governments and institutions to find solutions to local, regional and global challenges and to support the private sector. In fact, Chambers of Commerce around the world share common goals, such as facilitating trade, removing existing barriers, promoting economic development and improving the business environment. These goals have evolved to create a strategic partnership that facilitates trade finance.

Taking into account the key role of the Chambers of Commerce for the development of economies, now is the time to redefine their position. How can Chambers of Commerce achieve post COVID-19 common goals, improve competitiveness, and advance companies by pursuing future strategies that pave the way for sustainable growth? Partnerships to achieve goals and progress are the right way.

Adapting your Chamber to a post-COVID19 world is not business as usual. The focus is how to adapt to this new world that is yet to be defined, to mine whatever data is available to anticipate the new reality ahead of others, and how to conform with the new ways of doing business without facetime.

During the online conference, several Presidents from different Mediterranean Chambers of Commerce intervened to explain how their respective Chambers had coped with the times of the pandemic; how they are currently acting to face the current crisis, and how they are preparing themselves for the future.

Ahmed El Wakil, President of ASCAME and Alexandria Chamber of Commerce, stated how important it is to grow confidence in markets, keep supply chain flowing, avoid unnecessary reactions and trade barriers and to support Mediterranean governments. Joan Canadell, President of Barcelona Chamber of Commerce, claimed that Chambers of Commerce need to be a reference in the world as they have a role to play in keeping trade opportunities open, using all the benefits of digitisation and the 4.0 revolution.

In the same vein, Frederic Ronal, Vice-President of the Marseille Provence Chamber of Commerce, talked about relevant initiatives to diminish the negative effects from the crisis, such as giving support to local SMEs or relaunching local trade through the distribution of discount vouchers. Moreover, Omar Moro, President of the Tanger-Tétouan-Al Hoceima Chamber of Commerce, analysed how deeply the pandemic had affected Morocco: “Governance is the key element to know the real impact of the pandemic and plan a strategy for a better recovery. 65% companies had to stop, 3% escaped from the crisis, other had to reduce the staff. 77% of workers had to leave their jobs or reduce the working hours”.

Furthermore, Vassilis Korkidis, President of Piraeus Chamber of Commerce, proposed to have common business guidelines in the MED countries, based on lessons learned during the pandemic, that incorporate measures against the first wave implemented in different countries and stages, in order to be prepared for a possible second wave.  

Last, Vedran Devcic, from the Croatian Chamber of Economy, explained how important the tourism sector was in his country, as it represents 25% of GDP. “We need to transform and adapt to new times promoting public and private sector collaboration to implement specific measures that help this sector overcome the crisis”, he stated.

After the several speeches, the debate was opened and the spectators were able to ask questions and express opinions from different places, thanks to the benefits of new technologies. Chambers of Commerce are definitely called to play a key role in the future of Mediterranean economies.

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