With almost 900 promotional activities in 70 countries around the world for 80 product categories, the Italian Trade Commission has a full plate. Supported by state and private funds, in 2003 ITC counts on more than $100 million spending power. Thirty percent of this figure is aimed at the U.S.

"This is Italy’s leading market, followed by Russia and China," said Ugo Calzoni, general director of the association, in an interview at the organization’s Rome headquarters. The mechanical and electronics industries absorb 28.4 percent of ITC’s special projects, followed by fashion/leisure activities, with 25.6 percent.

"We are moving toward a more integrated promotion of different sectors, enhancing our national, rather than regional, systems," said Calzoni, noting the latest "Life in I Style" motto of the association.

"Italian excellence [in production]and the Made in Italy image of fashion, home furnishings, food and wine must be complemented by technology, design and reliability," said Calzoni.

He said ITC is scheduling seminars in collaboration with universities and business schools to help develop buyers and retailers who will "understand the Italian way of doing business and trading."

While helping Italian firms enter foreign markets, promoting products and services, ITC is working on presenting the country’s traditional "mom-and-pop stores."

At the same time, Calzoni said Italy must better understand the way mass distribution works and develop its own network.

"We are lagging behind. We used to think mass distribution would kill commerce, and we are now using other countries’ distribution services," said Calzoni. "We must expand our vision and also focus on franchising partnerships."

In 2003, ITC’s initiatives in the U.S. include participation in fashion-related trade fairs like WSA and MAGIC in Las Vegas, and promotion of various industries ranging from the chemical to agricultural, from investing in seminars on Italian design to supporting events for companies that produce machinery which work metal, plastic, or glass.

Calzoni said ITC is especially focused on the footwear, jewelry and cosmetics industries in the U.S., China and Russia. In Russia, ITC is preparing promotional events in May, including a fashion show, in St. Petersburg to mark the city’s 300th anniversary, together with Italy’s Chamber of Fashion and Sistema Moda Italia, a consortium of textile and apparel firms."We are requesting special permissions to show in the center of St. Petersburg," said Calzoni, although heremained tight-lipped as to which designers will participate.

The Balkans, the southern Mediterranean countries, India and Brazil are also markets on ITC’s radar.

"We must monitor all potential markets, even when it’s premature, but China and Russia, after the U.S., are emerging as the most important markets for Italy," said Calzoni, who noted the growing importance of China’s powerful producers and distributors and Russia’s rich bankers, oilmen and executives. "There are 100 million Chinese that have our same spending power."

Calzoni said Europe is also a market that must be watched and expanded. "We’ve registered a growth in Belgium and France last year, but there is still a lot to do in Germany, for example," he said.

Textile Industry

1,300 textile companies in the Piedmont region’s Biella district (one of Italy’s biggest textile producing areas) employing 25,000 employees and generating annual sales of about $3.6 billion, 40 percent of which is destined for export.

Source: Biella’s Textile Trade Union

Italian Exports

The most recent export data available shows that Italian exports in the first six months of 2002 totaled $129.08 billion. For full-year 2001, they came to $269.70 billion.

Based on the first six months of the year, here is the percentage breakdown of the biggest product categories for exports:

Industrial/domestic machinery and appliances: 19.7 percent

Transportation, including cars and car parts: 11.9 percent

Chemical and pharmaceutical products: 10.3 percent

Textiles and clothing: 10.2 percent

Electrical machinery and precision tools: 9.3 percent

Metals and metal products: 8 percent

Source: Italian Trade Commission

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