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Governo Italiano

Relations with North America


Relations with North America

United States and Canada

Italy’s relations with North America are characterized by deeply shared values and interests and strong economic and financial integration. Italy’s intense relations with the United States and Canada remains soundly anchored to transatlantic dialogue, which is also fundamental for the European Union, and is still an inescapable point of reference, also in consideration of new global trends.

United States

The friendship and cooperation relations between Italy and the United States - based on a common heritage of civilization, values, interests and ties - are fostered by mutual respect and trust and are underpinned by an especially intense bilateral dialogue. The United States recognizes and appreciates Italy’s strong commitment to multilateral peace-keeping missions and to the fight against terrorism and organized crime. The excellence of relations is also expressed in the numerous multilateral organizations and forums in which both Countries take part, ranging from the G7 and G20 to NATO and the United Nations. Ever since the end of World War II, Italy has been an important ally and a “global partner” of the United States, also by virtue of our capacity to dialogue and mediate with the different components of the international community, while the United States has constituted, for Italy, a fundamental point of reference in managing the international agenda.

The frequency of institutional visits stands to testify to the intensity of the political, economic and cultural bilateral relations. Mention should be made of the visit to the United States by Prime Minister Conte upon President Trump’s invitation (July 30, 2018) and by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Enzo Moavero Milanesi (January 3-4, 2019), who met Secretary of State Pompeo, National Security Advisor Bolton, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, as well as minority and majority Congressmen.

The first session of the US-Italy Strategic Dialogue on the enlarged Mediterranean, which took place on November 20 last, recorded excellent convergence of views. In this exercise, pragmatic collaboration with the United States is being developed in the fields of energy, the fight against terrorism and defence, in preparation for the spring session and in view of a future political meeting of the Foreign and Defence Ministers.

In the context of economic relations, also thanks to the great popularity of Made in Italy products, the United States is Italy’s largest export market in the world.

The United States is Italy’s third largest trading partner (after Germany and France) and the third export market. In 2017, total trade with the USA amounted to 55.5 billion euros. Exports were equal to 40.5 billion euros (+ 9.5% compared to 2016) and imports 15 billion euros (+ 13.4%). In the first nine months of 2018 there was a growth in bilateral trade with a 3% increase in exports (worth approximately 30.3 billion euros) and a 5% increase in imports (worth nearly 12 billion euros).

During that period, the main export sectors (data from the Ministry of Economic Development) were machinery (4.2 billion euros), vehicles (about 3.1 billion euros) and pharmaceutical products (1.7 billion euros). Italy’s main imports were medicines (1.9 billion euros), aircraft (0.8 billion euros), crude oil (0.57 billion euros) and machinery (0.54 billion euros).

In the pharmaceutical sector, in particular, the United States is our second largest trading partner and accounts for 16.1% of the total exports of the sector (after Belgium with a 17.5% share, but before Germany (9. 9%) and Switzerland (9.2%). The United States is also our first supplier (Farmindustria’s data).

Foreign direct investment flows (bilateral FDI) still have high margin for potential growth. Italy attracts only 1% of US investment in Europe (ranking 27th in absolute terms) and accounts for 1.1% of European investment in the United States (being the 15th largest investor in the total ranking). The stock of US FDI in Italy is slightly over 12 billion euros, thus placing the USA 8th in the ranking of investors in Italy (2017 data from the Economic Observatory of the Ministry for Economic Development). This is a limited portion of US investment (mainly directed to the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Luxembourg, Canada and Ireland). In Italy, the most affected sectors are manufacturing (chemical and mechanical sectors), electronics, telecommunications and services (financial, insurance and banking services).

There are over 3,300 Italian companies operating in the United States, especially in the energy, textile-clothing, industrial machinery, mechanics, wholesale and agri-food sectors. Significant investment is made in the infrastructure, defence, renewable energy and automotive sectors.

Italy’s major infrastructure and transport companies are the following: SALINI IMPREGILO, ASTALDI, GRUPPO TREVI, GRANDI LAVORI FINCOSIT, ANSALDO, as well as ITINERA GRUPPO GAVIO, PIZZAROTTI and CMC RAVENNA.

Italian companies operate also in the energy sector: ENI, ENEL, ANSALDO ENERGIA, PRYSMIAN GROUP, BHGE NUOVO PIGNONE, as well as GRUPPO TOTO-RENEXIA, EDISON and SAIPEM.

Major Italian groups are active in the US pharmaceutical sector: Menarini Group, Chiesi Group, Alfasigma, Dompé Farmaceutici, Angelini, Italfarmaco, Zambon Group, Recordati, Kedrion and Sofar.

We should also record the significant contribution of US tourism to our country. The figures released by the Bank of Italy recorded 3,756,000 US tourists in 2017 (+ 5.29% as against the previous year).

The large and highly qualified Italian-American community (the latest official poll recorded a total of approximately 17.7 million Americans of Italian origin) constitutes the fourth-largest ethnic group of European origin after the Germans, Irish and English. It is a major driver in developing economic relations between the two countries, especially in the light of its outstanding dynamism which, in many cases, led it to achieve a highly prestigious economic and social standing, and also contributes to enhancing bilateral cultural relations through an extended network of institutions and associations.  

Italy's cultural promotion and cooperation in the United States also makes use of a network of Italian Cultural Institutes (Washington, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco) that work jointly with the Consulates present in the said cities and with those in Miami, Houston, Boston, Philadelphia and Detroit.

In recent years, the traditionally very close Italian-American collaboration in the field of justice and the fight against organized crime has been matched by the one against international terrorism and violent extremism.

The intense scientific collaboration is characterized by a wide network of initiatives involving public and private institutions and include many projects and programs carried out by universities, research institutes, laboratories and companies on a wide range of subjects. There are as many as 35,000 US students in Italy.

For over 50 years there has been sound collaboration between Italy and the United States in the space sector, which is particularly broad and diversified and keeps on developing with renewed vigour. In particular, the close and profitable collaboration between the Italian Space Agency (ASI) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is recently also affecting the sector of private commercial space flights.


The excellent relations and close friendship and cooperation between Italy and Canada are grounded on the particular closeness of the two countries, ranging from their shared views and values to a common commitment in international crisis scenarios, from the fundamental contribution of the Italian community to the country’s growth, both at economic and political levels, to particularly advanced economic and scientific partnerships.

Bilateral contacts and meetings with Canada are rather frequent and marked by visits at the highest level. In addition to the State visit paid to Canada (Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver) by President of the Republic Mattarella (June 26 - July 1, 2017) and the visit to Italy by Prime Minister Trudeau in May 2017, we can mention the meeting between Prime Minister Conte and Prime Minister Trudeau on the sidelines of the Charlevoix G7 Summit (June 8-9, 2018).

Political relations are characterized by a significant convergence of interests in the main multilateral forums (G7-G20, NATO, UN, OSCE and Arctic Council), by similar sensitivities to issues such as human rights (especially against the death penalty, combating female genital mutilations and forced marriages, and freedom of religion) and by ample agreement on major international challenges, starting with a common commitment in favour of regional and global stability. Italy’s cooperation with Canada extends to the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Horn of Africa - also thanks to the heritage of knowledge and relations that Italy has in that region - and to the activities of the Arctic Council in which Italy, with the support of Canada, has held the status of Permanent Observer since 2013. Particularly significant is Italy’s cooperation with Canada in combating organized crime. In line with the provisions made on diplomatic relations under the Vienna Convention, since November 2013 Italy has been protecting Canadian interests in Iran on the basis of an ad hoc Memorandum of Understanding after Ottawa suspended diplomatic relations with Iran in September 2012.  

The presence of a large community of Italian origin in Canada is yet another factor strengthening their relations: the community consists of 1.5 million people (Italian being the fourth most studied foreign language in the country), half of whom reside in Ontario and a third in Quebec, all of whom are well integrated and active in the country’s social fabric, also as a consequence of the “multicultural” policy pursued by Canada since the 1960s. In numerical terms, the Italian community is the country’s third-largest, after the English and French-speaking communities, and counts on qualified representatives who hold positions of relevance at different political levels (federal, provincial and municipal), in the world of finance, in large-scale industry, in important companies, in media organizations, and in culture, show-business and sports.  

The cultural, scientific and technological relations between Italy and Canada - and especially with Quebec - are intense and are supported by strong political and economic ties. At present, there are over 3,000 Italian scientists in Canada, numerous cooperation agreements between the two countries’ Universities and three Associations of Italian researchers: ARPICO, based in Vancouver, ARIO, headquartered in London, Ontario, and CSIQ, with head offices in Montreal.

Thanks to its large supply of energy sources and raw materials, the high level of education and the quality of scientific and technological research, Canada offers a wide range of opportunities to Italy’s industrial system, which is already present in the country with large companies operating in the sectors of energy, automobiles, the aerospace industry, and the food and agricultural sector. Some of these companies operate through their own production plants and distribution systems. The Italian groups operating in Canada include Leonardo/Finmeccanica, Saipem-Snamprogetti, ENEL Green Power North America, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles - FCA, Pirelli, Italcementi, Astaldi, MAPEI, Ferrero Canada, Valvitalia, Technip and Tenaris.

In terms of bilateral trade, according to data published by ISTAT, in 2017 Italy was still the eighth supplier (third European supplier after Germany and the United Kingdom), thus continuing the positive trend of the last decade. Italy instead was the twelfth Canadian export market. Total trade was about 5.5 billion euros, with Italian exports amounting to 3.9 billion euros compared to 1.5 billion euros of Canadian exports. Again in 2017 the bilateral trade balance confirmed the strong relative weight of the agri-food sector and its huge potential. The agri-food sector is traditionally one of the most significant items of the Italy-Canada bilateral trade. In 2017 Italy was the first European agri-food supplier for Canada and the fourth largest global supplier, behind the United States, Mexico and China. In terms of trade balance composition, agri-food is the second largest Italian export sector to Canada and accounted for over one seventh of all Italian exports to the country in 2017 (1.3 billion Canadian dollars out of approximately 8 billion Canadian dollars). In the first nine months of 2018, our exports increased by 3.4% (2,997 million euros) compared to the same period of 2017, while our imports remained practically unvaried, with a slight 0.2% increase (1,127 million euros) which led to a positive balance for Italy equal to 1,870 million euros (+ 5.6%).

The main sectors of Italian exports are: machinery, beverages and spirits, vehicles, cars and spare parts, pharmaceuticals, optical and medical instruments.

Since September 2017, the EU-Canadian Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) - a new-generation free-trade agreement - has been applied provisionally.

Bilateral foreign direct investment (FDI) is still limited, with a bias in favour of Canada. According to the figures released by Eurostat (source: Istat-ICE), in 2017 Italian foreign investment amounted to 284 million euros, considerably higher than in the preceding year (approximately 229 million euros in 2016) while Canadian foreign investment (19 million euros in 2017) decreased compared to 2016 (116 million euros). In terms of the stock of net investments, in the 1992-2017 period, Italian net investments in Canada amounted to approximately 2.5 billion euros while Canadian investments in Italy totalled 495 million euros.    


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