News analysis: Italian exports to China expanding beyond fashion industry

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ROME, Oct. 1 (Xinhua) — Italian exports to China are set to grow for the third consecutive year, with Italian products playing an increasing role in the trade partnership.

China has long been a key market for high-end Italian fashion items such as clothes, accessories, and jewelry, but now the trend is spreading to other areas.

The Italian media has recently reported that China has become the largest foreign buyer of Italian marble, accounting for around half of international sales.

Exports of Italian-made furniture to China are also on the rise, according to reports, and China has become the fastest-growing market for Italian cheese. Officials in the Italian eye glasses sector say they expect exports to recover to pre-pandemic levels by the end of the year, with sales to China helping to lead the way.

“China has always been a large and dynamic market and as the market develops the demand for well-known and high-quality products is growing as well,” Francesca Spigarelli, a professor of applied economics and an executive board member of the Chinese Globalization Association, told Xinhua.

According to the data firm Statista, Italy’s exports to China slipped after reaching a peak of 15.5 billion euros (18.1 billion U.S. dollars) in 2018.

However, they have climbed each year since then and are set to rise again this year, according to Italy’s National Statistics Institute (NSI). The NSI reported earlier this week that exports to China had increased by more than 13 percent in August compared to the previous year, building on increases earlier in the year.

According to Beijing’s official figures, Italy plays as China’s fourth largest trading partner in the European Union, and China ranks Italy’s largest trading partner in Asia.

Marco Bettin, operating director of the Italia China Foundation and secretary-general of the Italy-China Chamber of Commerce, said the latest increases were at least in part due to China’s quick recovery from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

“China is really the only major economy in the world to almost completely reopen after the pandemic, and that means it is playing an even bigger role in the global trade markets,” Bettin told Xinhua.

“But there is no doubt that interest in ‘Made in Italy’ products is growing in China. We have been seeing that trend since long before the pandemic.”

Spigarelli agreed, adding that there was no reason to believe the growth in Italian exports to China wouldn’t continue even after other major economies complete their recoveries.

“The global logistics systems are still hindered by pandemic-related factors,” she said. “We could see another push toward growth as logistics systems recover.”

Italy has long had a negative trade balance with China, meaning the value of goods the country imports from China is greater than those it exports to China. However, both Spigarelli and Bettin agreed that China’s importance as a destination for Italian exports is likely to increase in the foreseeable future.

“China is already a very important market for Italian products and its importance for Italy will only grow,” Bettin said. Enditem