Abu Dhabi: Italy’s Ambassador to the UAE, Liborio Stellino, praised the UAE as a powerful moderate voice in the region, an important political ally in the fight against terrorism and a solid trade partner,
“The UAE and its enlightened leadership are strategic partners for Italy,” Stellino told Gulf News on Thursday as His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, and Italy’s Prime Minister Matteo Renzi discussed ways of enhancing bilateral cooperation and regional and international issues of common interest.
Stellino said the frequency of high-level bilateral political visits has recently increased significantly, and meetings between our political leaders, and Shaikh Mohammad’s visit had set the tone for stronger cooperation on various fronts.
“Bilateral ties are reflected in the growth in trade. Italy-UAE trade relations set three significant records last year with total trade topping 7 billion euros [Dh28.9 billion], Italian exports to the UAE notching 6.19 billion euros and trade surplus recording 5.3 billion euros. The main Italian exports to the UAE were jewellery (over 1 billion euros), machinery (1 billion euros) and refined oil products (600 million euros).
The main Italian imports were refined oil products (331 million euros) and precious metals (207 million euros).
“In total, in 2015, the UAE was the 15th largest market for Italian trade, scoring far better than top-trading partners such as Japan or Saudi Arabia since at least five years,” the Italian Ambassador said.
He added that the UAE is by far the most important market for Italian products in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region. “Moreover, more than 600 onshore and/or offshore Italian companies are operating in the [UAE],” he said.
The Italian ambassador said there is no place comparable to the UAE in the entire Middle East. “Many Italians and Italian firms are coming here to take advantage of the strong bonds between the two countries. Currently, there are 12,000 Italians in the UAE [the Italian community has more than doubled in the last four years], the largest Italian community in the Mena region and extending up to China. About 300,000 Italian tourists visited the UAE last [year], while Italy has emerged as one of the top 10 destinations in the world for UAE travellers.”
Stellino said the success of Expo Milan 2015 has certainly contributed to the stable growth of tourism relations and has set the basis for a new field of cooperation in terms of exchange of “best practices” in preparation for Expo Dubai 2020. “We are ready to stay together to ‘connect our minds’ in order to create a best, inclusive and peaceful future for next generations,” he added.