Italy puts the spotlight of food and tourism in bid to promote trade links with China

PUBLISHED : Monday, 28 November, 2016, 9:27pm
UPDATED : Monday, 28 November, 2016, 11:13pm

Italy will continue to promote trade and tourism with mainland China and Hong Kong regardless of the outcome of the referendum result this Sunday, according to Antonello De Riu, Consul General of Italy in Hong Kong and Macau.

“China is a major trading partner with Italy while Hong Kong is acting as a stepping stone for many Italian companies exporting goods or doing businesses in mainland China. The trade relationship between Italy and China and Hong Kong is for the long term and would not be affected by the referendum result or other political events,” De Riu said.

De Riu made the comments at a media briefing to promote Fico Eataly World, a project to heighten awareness of opportunities for food tourism to Bologna, Italy in the second half of next year. The project is intended to promote 6 million visitors a year.

Italy on Sunday will hold a national referendum on whether to support Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s political reforms.

At present, bills put forward by lawmakers need to be approved by both the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate before they can become law. The referendum on December 4 will allow the Italian public to decide whether they want to stick with the current legislative procedure or opt for a restructuring that would effectively reduce the second chamber’s power.

De Riu said the referendum may help speed up future reforms and would not affect Italy’s trade relationship with China. However, financial analysts warn of political uncertainty ahead after the vote.

Alessandro Bonfiglioli, general director of Centro Agro Alimentare Bologna and general secretary of the FICO Foundation, said the trade and tourism project is privately funded so it will not be affected by the outcome of the Sunday’s vote.

“We want to attract mainland tourists and Chinese importers to experience the very best food and wine at the FICO Eataly World. The purpose is to promote our food and wine exports to China,” Bonfiglioli said.

China imported 11 billion euros worth of Italian goods last year, while Hong Kong imported 6 billion euros worth, making them the first and third biggest importers from the European country in Asia. China is a growing market for Italy with annual trade expanding 5 to 7 per cent per year, according to the Italian Trade Commissioner Michele Scuotto.

“China is going to become a more important trading partner with Italy,” he said. “ There are many good food companies in Italy but they are fragmented. The new project will help to raise awareness.”