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Italy Expecting "Trade Renaissance" From Russia

Italy Expecting "Trade Renaissance" From Russia

03.02.2010 — Analysis

Italy is one of the key European trade and economic partners of Russia. The friendly tone is maintained by the parties not only in business but at the highest levels as well. Well known, for instance, is the fact that the Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi wears the jacket gifted to him by the Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. The bright picture of far-reaching Italian-Russian plans has been somewhat clouded by the economic crisis that caused significant reduction in the trade turnover. Roberto Pelo, the Director of the Italian Institute for Foreign Trade in Russia, pointed out in an interview to RusBusinessNews that today businessmen from Apennines are waiting for positive signals from the Russian side counting on the renaissance of large scale trade connections.

Signor Pelo, the Italian Institute for Foreign Trade is doing a lot of work for the development of economic and trade links between Italy and Russia. What are its main goals?

- On the one hand our goal is to help Italian companies ensure sustainable presence in Russia (establishment of branch offices, representations, carrying out direct investments, opening brand boutiques), and on the other we are trying to make information on products "made in Italy" available for Russian consumers.

The Italian Institute for Foreign Trade is doing a lot of work to organise joint displays of Italian manufacturers at international exhibitions held in Russia and other countries. Visitors at such exhibitions as "Consumexpo", "Furniture", "Packaging", "Metal processing. Machine Tools. Tools" and many others are already used to seeing not just individual stands here and there but whole pavilions presenting Italian companies' products. The Italian Institute for Foreign Trade not only organises the participation of Italian companies in exhibitions but also invites Russian operators who work in these sectors to come to the exhibitions, organises meetings with Italian manufacturers, seminars, master classes, presentations and press conferences aimed at giving the Russian consumer as much information as possible on equipment and goods made in Italy and services provided by Italian companies.

We organise visits to exhibitions held in Italy for Russian specialists, internships and training courses, visits to cutting edge Italian companies for Russian entrepreneurs. Russian entrepreneurs can get extensive information on industry sectors, on activities of Italian companies, publish their offers on the site in Russian.

- Are you satisfied by the results of work you have done last year?

- Very much so. I say this because despite the manifestations of the crisis and the hardships of that year, in 2009 we have managed to realise such unique and important projects as, for instance, conducting a systemic mission "Italian-Russian Economic Forum" in April last year. This event became the largest and best organised in the last 20 years.

As this forum was conducted it has received a wide mass media coverage. I will remind you, however, that it was organised with the support form the Italian and Russian Governments, the organisers were the Italian Ministry for Economic Development, the Italian Institute for Foreign Trade, the Confederation of Italian Industry and the Association of Italian Banks. The Forum was held in Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Ekaterinburg, Novosibisrsk, and the Krasnodar Krai. About a thousand Italian companies participated. More than 7,000 bilateral meetings have been organised within the forum, several important Italian-Russian agreements have been signed in various sectors of economy.

In Moscow Vladimir Putin, the Chairman of the Government of the Russian Federation, participated in the Forum. From Italy the Industry Minister Claudio Scajola and the President of the Italian Institute for Foreign Trade Umberto Vattani participated in the Forum. Jointly with Viktor Khristenko, the Russian Minister for Industry and Trade, they continued the Forum in Ekaterinburg. The Italian delegation that arrived to the capital of the Urals Federal District was more than 200 people strong. Russia was represented at the Forum in Ekaterinburg by more than a thousand participants from authorities, unions and associations, industrial enterprises of the Sverdlovsk, Chelyabinsk, Tyumen, Kurgan Oblasts, the Perm Krai, the Republic of Bashkortostan. 

- Has the global financial crisis adjusted this line of work in any way?

- Of course, we have to take lessons learned through the crisis into account. Russia of 2010 is not Russia of 2008 and will never be like that again. The crisis yet again has highlighted the fragility of the Russian development model. It has unveiled the underdeveloped modern structure of the consumer market, demonstrated the structural weakness of the industrial development. On the other hand Russia today and more so in the future is capable of offering Italian companies massive opportunities. All we have to do is to adjust our actions from the point of view of promotion in the Russian market.

- Do Italian businessmen prefer any particular Russian regions? Any place where it is easier for them to work? How attractive is the Urals region for them in this respect?

- For a number of years now, since before the crisis we have been working with Italian companies, directing their efforts to regional markets as well as to Moscow and Saint Petersburg. We are first and foremost interested in the existing opportunities rather than in advantages. Various areas of the Russian Federation are interesting from this point of view. This includes Ekaterinburg and the whole of the Urals region, Novosibirsk and Siberia, Samara and Volga region, Krasnodar and Kuban.

- What areas of cooperation are most interesting for Italians in Russia and in particular in the Urals? What sectors have the best future in the Italian-Russian cooperation?

- From the trade development point of view, all segments of the consumer market and machine building sector are the spheres where cooperation between Italy and Russia can be developed. If we talk about the Urals then we can state a number of particular industries. For instance cooperation can involve practically the whole of the machine building sector to include supplies of construction machinery, earth moving equipment, foundry machines. The consumer goods market is interested in the development of links in the sphere of production and supplies of clothes, footwear, furniture.

- According to your specialists, in the conditions of financial crisis, are Italian businessmen more interested in the Russian market or on the contrary, has their interest faded somewhat?

- The problem is not in the financial crisis as such but in the management and the organization of the Russian market. For instance in 2009 the speed of reduction in volumes of imports into Russia exceeded this indicator in other countries. This is a bad sign which came from Russia to its most faithful trade partners, Italy being one. Today the interest in the Russian market remains unchanged and we are still waiting for other signs, for positive ones.

- You mentioned the Italian-Russian Economic Forum. Has this Forum produced any new interest to Russia amongst Italian companies? Which projects have been given a start at the Forum? Are you planning to conduct any similar events in the future?

- The credit should be given to the Forum and its Urals stage (in which, it is worth mentioning, Claudio Scajola, the Italian Industry Minister, Viktor Khristenko, the Russian Minister for Industry and Trade, and Umberto Vattani, the President of the Italian Institute for Foreign Trade, took part) for keeping the links alive in the hardest of times. In 2011 Russia will conduct its Forum in Italy and this is a good sign. Russia and Italy are two strategic partners.

The material has been prepared jointly with the Department for Public Relations of the Italian Institute for Foreign Trade in Russia

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