China trade fair major opportunity for "Made in Italy" brands

ROME, Oct. 28 (Xinhua) — The brands behind the “Made in Italy” trademark — battered by months of slow production from Italy’s national coronavirus lockdown and the worldwide economic slowdown — are increasingly looking toward Shanghai as a way to speed up their recovery.

The China International Import Expo (CIIE), scheduled to take place in November, has been a mainstay on the calendar for exporters around the world. But this year it is taking on an added level of importance. The expo is also one of the few major touchstones among trade fairs that have not been forced to shorten its length or move to a new spot on the calendar.

“A lot of time has been lost (during the lockdown) and that has shaken up the international import and export markets in a dramatic way,” Nicola Guerini, managing director of the Milan Fashion Institute, told Xinhua, adding that CIIE will be “one of the few constants.”

Guerini said the Italian fashion industry will use the expo as a way to “reintroduce” itself to Chinese consumers after the challenges of recent months. But many other Italian export sectors will be on hand there including shoe makers, food producers, wine makers, jewelry designers, medical equipment, and the high-tech.

According to Javier Noriega, an economist with the investment bank Hildebrandt and Ferrar, Italian exports are expected to lead the way as Italy seeks to emerge from the economically crippling period during the coronavirus lockdown.

“Italy is the second-largest exporter in the European Union (EU), behind Germany,” Noriega said in an interview. “Exports are especially important for Italy in part because small and medium enterprises have carved out a niche with higher-end ‘Made in Italy’ products, whether food and wine or fashion and design.”

Noriega said the Italian economy is too small to consume the goods it produces in these areas.

“Depending on the sector, Italy domestically consumes between 10 percent and 40 percent of what it produces,” he said. “Meanwhile, the Chinese economy is vibrant and the events there (like the CIIE) represent a major opportunity for companies to either build on their reputations in China or to make themselves known if they are new to that market.”

Italy was the first country in Europe hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic earlier this year. The country was the first to issue a national peacetime lockdown in March. However, the pandemic remains more under control in Italy than in some other European countries like France or Spain.

Italy’s exports to China grew by 4.8 percent in August this year compared with the same month last year, even as Italian exports towards non-EU countries overall dropped by 11.7 percent in the same period, according to the data from Italy’s National Statistics Institute (ISTAT).

This comes after exports to China from Italy jumped by 14 percent in July compared with the same month last year.

Italy exported to China goods worth a total of 14.54 billion U.S. dollars during 2019, according to the United Nations Comtrade database on international trade. In 2019, Italian exports to China made up 2.7 percent of Italy’s total foreign trade, according to ISTAT.

In its “China 2020” annual report, the Study Center for Businesses of the Italy China Foundation (CeSIF, in its Italian acronym) wrote that “China is central in the relaunch strategies of exporting companies after COVID-19” because although its economy slows down due to the pandemic, its growth will still be higher than that of other countries.00

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