Abu Dhabi: Trade between the UAE and Italy grew by 27 per cent in the first six months of 2012, and bilateral trade between the two countries increased to 5 billion euros in 2011 amidst expectations to increase further in the year.
Christian Lungarotti, first secretary and deputy head of the Italian Embassy to the UAE, told Gulf News in an interview that trade exchanges favored Italy which exported 4.7 billion Euros to the UAE and it imported commodities worth 300 million euros from the UAE in 2011.
Lungarotti pointed out that joint ventures, economic cooperation and investments are on a trajectory to increase further throughout this year.
Q. How do you view bilateral economic and political ties between the two countries?
A. The UAE is Italy’s second-biggest trading partner in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena). We are looking to further boost our cooperation in trade, investment, tourism, industry, agriculture, financial services and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and intellectual property rights.
The Italian prime minister will be paying a visit to the UAE in November 2012 to enhance joint ventures, foster relationships and bilateral relations. Many Italian and UAE businessmen representing various sectors such as renewable energy, pharmaceutical, real estate, and fashion held talks to further cement ties and increase economic cooperation.
Q: What about the products exported from the UAE to Italy?
A: The exports have increased in comparison to the previous years but I believe they still have much more potential. (Italy is the main market for exports for the UAE at the present time with respect to manufacturing and agro-food). Real estate is also growing at a steady pace allowing for Italian products to take up more of the market. We also exchange information and expertise in Agro-food industry, fisheries and irrigation to solve the issue of food security in both nations.
We have strong cooperation with the UAE in terms of alternative energy and sustainable development.
Q: What are the main industries? What about SMEs?
A: Right now the main trading occurs from manufacturing industries from the Steel and Aluminum sectors as well as that of Agro-Food. The two nations agreed to encourage cooperation between SMEs in both countries and to exchange information about the regulations and legislative incentives for mutual investments. Italy and the UAE give due importance to enhancing public and private partnerships.
Q: What about tourism between the two countries?
A: Tourism is a long standing contribution to the relationship between the countries. 170,000 Italian tourists visit the Emirates on average, especially now that there are direct flights offered by Emirates airline to multiple destinations in Italy. Tourism has huge potential and many outlets since the main focus now is not just to promote entertainment tourism to all of Italy including the less famous touristic cities, but to also promote Medical tourism, where Italy would start to receive patients from the region due to its excellent medical facilities and health care opportunities.
There is a room for growth in potential tourism exchanges. A Rome-Abu Dhabi flight will soon be boosting trade, business relations, and tourism between the two countries.
Q: How many Italians currently reside in the Emirates?
A: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs reported an approximate number of 6,000-7,000. We expect the number of Italian residents to gradually increase over the coming years due to the growing business opportunities.
Q: How many Italian companies operate in the UAE?
A: The Italian companies at the present time are less than 200, with most of the companies operating from Dubai.
Q: Are there any specific aims for the new businesses ventures?
A: The cooperation between the UAE government and the Italian government is allowing for long term strategies to be developed on the basis of partnerships rather than just buyer and seller relationships. Meetings are starting to be set annually to promote further interaction between the key business representatives from each country to strengthen the relations. November 2012 will mark the visit of the Prime Minister of Italy to assess the progress and to take the Emirati-Italian relations a further step ahead.
Q: What makes the UAE unique for Italy?
A: Since Italy is the closest of the European countries to the Arab world, the Italians and the Emiratis seem to be similar to each other in many ways, and share a lot of common interest and values with respect to family ties and personal relationships, in addition to their appreciation of good taste and overall interest in enjoying life in a productive manner.
— With inputs from Tamar Suleiman, intern at Gulf News.