SOUTH-EAST ASIA AND OCEANIA
ASEAN (Association of South-East Asian Nations), consists of 10 member states: Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar. The ASEAN area has a population of 650 million people and has recorded the world’s highest GDP growth rate for several consecutive years.
Italy’s exports to the ASEAN area from 2011 to 2016 have grown by 29,7%. Overall trade has also increased at similar rates (+27,5%) during the same period.
Bilateral relations are strengthened by the large and well-integrated Filipino community resident in Italy. The year 2017 marked the 70th anniversary of diplomatic relations. Italy’s exports to the Philippines have significantly increased in the last 5 years (+79%). The Philippines is a fast-growing economy of increasing interest for Italian companies.
Indonesia is an emerging Asian power, a G-20 member and the leading economy in South-East Asia. Indonesia is Italy’s second trade partner in the ASEAN region: export have grown by 47% in the last 5 years. Indonesia and Italy have also promoted a regular inter-religious dialogue forum, aimed at promoting the values of tolerance and moderation.
Italy and Malaysia celebrated the 60th anniversary of bilateral relations in 2017. Malaysia is the 4th largest market for Italian exports in the ASEAN area: exports have grown by 26% in the last 5 years.
In terms of economic relations, trade - albeit still limited - has recorded an impressive increase in the last 5 years (+855%), demonstrating a good potential.
Singapore is a major global economic and financial hub. It attracts a growing number of Italian companies, settling in the city-state also with a view to expand over the rest of the region. Singapore currently represents the main market for Italian exports in the ASEAN region (1.84 bn. Euros in 2016).
Thailand is Italy’s third commercial partner in the ASEAN region. Italian exports have grown by 11% in the last 5 years. To be noted the recent creation of a very active Business Forum, including companies from both countries, which contributes to intensify bilateral trade and to foster direct investments.
Vietnam is Italy’s main commercial partner in the ASEAN area, with trade amounting to 4 billion Euros in 2016; exports have recorded an 88.5% growth in the past five years. Bilateral cooperation extends to the cultural, scientific and academic sectors, with numerous agreements between Italian and Vietnamese universities.
Australia is a G-20 partner, sharing Italy’s main global priorities. Australia hosts a well-integrated community of Italian origin of more than one million people. The flow of direct investments is growing in both directions, as well as the number of Italian companies participating in major projects in Australia. Exports from Italy have increased by 18,5% from 2011 to 2016.
Bilateral economic and commercial relations are fast expanding, despite the geographic distance. This friendship is grounded on shared views on global issues and on the joint commitment to promote a universal moratorium on the death penalty. Italian exports have increased by 26% in the last 5 years.
In recent years Italy has stepped up its presence in the Pacific area. Bilateral relations with the countries of the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) are growing. There is a constant commitment from Italy to increase resilience in facing climate change, fostering sustainable development and protecting the oceans.
Since 2004, Italy has a strategic partnership with the PRC, providing a forum to discuss bilateral issues, regional and multilateral issues of common interest as well as issues pertaining to EU-China relations. The central operational tool of this partnership is the Italy-China Government Committee, set up in 2004 and co-chaired by the Foreign Ministers of the two countries (the 8th edition took place in Beijing on 18th December 2017). The Committee brings together representatives from the main public administrations of the two countries and helps developing sectoral cooperation.
The underlying principles and the priority areas of bilateral cooperation are outlined in the Action Plan, which was adopted on 16 May 2017 in Beijing by the President of the Council of Ministers Gentiloni with his Chinese counterpart Li Keqiang.
Economic and trade cooperation are paramount in the bilateral relationship, with a view to address excessive macroeconomic imbalances as well as attracting more Chinese investment in Italy, especially industrial investment.
In 2016 Italy and Japan celebrated 150 years of diplomatic relations - the bilateral Treaty of Friendship and Trade was signed on 25 August 1866. Beside frequent political contacts, bilateral relations feature a broad range of sectoral cooperation, based on shared views about many regional and global issues, as well as a positive trend in economic and trade relations, which will further benefit from the implementation of the Economic Partnership Agreement between Japan and the EU. The convergence of views emerges in particular at the G-7 and the G-20.
People-to-people relations are particularly strong as demonstrated by the large number of tourists and the strong mutual interest in respective cultures.
The friendship between the peoples of Italy and Japan has frequently been confirmed on the occasion of the natural catastrophes - such as earthquakes - that hit the Italian peninsula and the Japanese archipelago. Aid was provided, in particular, over the earthquakes in L’Aquila (2009), Tohoku (2011), in Kyushu and central Italy (2016).
Republic of Korea
In 2014, Italy and the Republic of Korea celebrated the 130th anniversary since the establishment of diplomatic relations. Relations are underpinned by sound bilateral political dialogue and shared values on the main regional and global issues.
The relationship is marked by intense and diverse trade, driven by the free-trade agreement between the European Union and the Republic of Korea.
People-to-people relations are also expanding: figures on tourism from South Korea to Italy show a positive trend, supported by the increase in the number of direct flights.
Cultural promotion is an area of mutual interest, especially in design and music.
Italy also attaches great importance to cooperation in science and technology (Korea invests 4.3% of its GDP in research and development).
Diplomatic relations between Italy and Mongolia were formally established in 1970 and have intensified following the opening of embassies in Rome in 2012 and in Ulaanbaatar in 2016 respectively. There is mutual interest in deepening political dialogue and sectorial cooperation with special emphasis on trade and investments.
The two countries are engaged in developing cooperation in the textile-tanning sectors, agriculture and food safety (meat processing), transportation and energy infrastructure and mining.
South Asia is unquestionably an area of great potential for economic development.
The region offers interesting opportunities for the further development of economic relations and trade. Trade with India is worth about 8 billion Euros. Italy exports mainly machinery, chemical products, vehicles, agricultural products and food and it imports from India oil by-products, chemicals, plastic materials, synthetic rubber and clothing. In India there are about 600 companies whose share capital is totally or partially Italian, mainly in the two largest industrial areas of the country - Delhi and Mumbai. Trade with Bangladesh is worth about 2 billion Euros. More than 90% of Italian imports from Bangladesh are textiles and leather products. Most Italian exports to Bangladesh are industrial machinery. Italian investments are mostly concentrated in textiles. Other sectors of interest are machinery for producing footwear and for tanneries.
Italy imports mainly textiles, clothing and leather products from Pakistan. Italy exports machinery (especially for the textile industry), chemicals, fertilisers and plastic materials, for a total amount of about 1.3 billion Euros. The “GSP Plus” preferential trade regime granted by the European Union from 1 January 2014 has stimulated growth and the creation of ventures with local businesses in sectors such as textile machinery and leather and footwear machinery.
With Sri Lanka, bilateral trade is worth about 600 million Euros. Italy exports textiles and machinery, and imports mainly textiles, clothing and rubber.
Other economic aspects
From the economic standpoint, South Asia is a region of great interest, due to its sustained high growth rates in recent years. India’s GDP continues to grow at 7%, placing the country among the largest economies in the world.
The other countries of the sub-continent are also growing at high rates: between 5 and 7%. Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka have a steady population growth and high rates of urbanisation, factors that may strongly drive growth.