A trading zone in the Italian port city of Trieste that offers Asian manufacturers the ability to showcase products to European buyers free of tax for six months was launched last week. The Adriatic Trade Centre, launched by TO Delta, an Italian logistics and shipping firm, is targeting mainly mainland and Hong Kong manufacturers, since China is the world's factory, said TO Delta Asian chief representative Alberto Innocenti. 'The Adriatic Trade Centre is a large facility inside a duty-free zone in Trieste. It is new because it combines the possibility for Asian manufacturers to open sales offices with showrooms and distribution centres all in one in a duty-free centre,' said Innocenti. Asian manufacturers at the centre would be exempt from duty and value-added tax, which range from 16 to 20 per cent in the European Union, for up to six months while they displayed their goods to European buyers, he said. Otherwise, Asian manufacturers would have to set up companies in Europe, pay taxes for the goods they imported to Europe and face various bureaucratic procedures, Innocenti said. There were hardly any Hong Kong traders that showcased their wares in Europe for months at a time, Willy Lin Sun-mo, chairman of the Hong Kong Shippers' Council, said. 'The services are nothing really new, but the concept is definitely interesting. To combine a duty-free zone and a distribution centre at a difficult time like this is very bold. It's not common to find this one-stop service in other parts of Europe.' Trieste is a strategic window on central and eastern Europe, Innocenti said. However, its international airport was small and it could do with more direct shipping lines, Lin said. Innocenti said 20 to 30 Hong Kong and mainland manufacturers so far had expressed interest in the Adriatic Trade Centre. During the first half, China's exports to Europe fell 21.8 per cent because of the global economic crisis, according to the Ministry of Commerce. Hong Kong's re-exports to Germany and Britain fell 22.2 per cent and 20.4 per cent, respectively, last month, according to the Census and Statistics Department. 'Overall, sentiment has improved about two months ago,' said Lin. 'People in Europe and the US seem a bit more daring to buy things. There are a lot more short and quick orders from Europe, say for two weeks. Buyers have no guts to place orders. The market is so weak that they are nervous. So they order a bit here and there to test the market.' While China's manufacturing sector had become more expensive than those of Asian countries like India, which now have an advantage in low-end goods, Lin said, China and Hong Kong had the advantage of being a lot better than other Asian countries in making quick delivery.