India and Italy are ancient civilizations that have traded with each other for over 2,000 years. There have been constant collaborations across sectors that have given further impetus to India-Italy trade relations, and these have gained sharper focus in light of the revitalisation of bilateral ties between the two nations.
On the business front, there have been a series of trade delegations and government-led trade initiatives that have enabled Italy to successfully establish a more dynamic relationship with India.
I am thoroughly delighted that in 2017, the Indo-Italian trade increased by 18.76 per cent compared with the previous year. While Italian exports to India increased 12.54 per cent, imports from India swelled 24.05 per cent. Furthermore, during the first quarter of 2018, Indian imports from Italy increased 19.5 per cent, whereas Italian imports from India increased 6.8 per cent. The total trade between India and Italy for the first three months of 2018 stood at 2.42 billion euros against 2.17 billion euros in 2017.
India is now also the 17th largest supplier to Italy (with a share of 1.28 per cent) and 30th largest buyer (with a share of 0.08 per cent), setting the tone for more ambitious trade goals.
I am firmly convinced that our intensive programme of workshops and networking throughout India has paved the way for new successful and joint initiatives. Our experience here reinstates the fact that the Indo-Italian bilateral trade would be built by complementing strengths and skills in key areas. India’s large population of highly educated youth and numerous raw materials, and Italy’s technological and design expertise, along with a world-renowned acumen to transform things, make us a perfect match for trade. The impressive numbers exemplify the strengthening of our trade ties. The significant collaboration between companies from India and Italy just reiterates the natural partnership that our two nations share.
A key factor for bilateral cooperation is the similarity between our manufacturing systems, which has been a catalyst for fueling our imports and exports. For instance, in 2017 Italian exports to India included 42.31 per cent machinery, 5.8 per cent chemical products, 4.37 per cent plastics & articles, 3.4 per cent articles of iron & steel, 3.36 per cent medical & surgical instruments, 2.80 per cent automotive & components followed by 1.85 per cent furniture.
There are more than 400 Italian companies present in India. Major locations of presence include city-clusters of Delhi-Gurgaon-Noida, Mumbai-Pune, Chennai and Bangalore. In addition to this, Italian companies are also exploring new locations for Italian plants in India such as Gujarat and Rajasthan.
With the implementation of the good and services tax (GST), the entire process of moving goods within states has been more efficient and cost-effective. With imports procedure being reduced from 11 to just 3 forms, doing business in India is a lot easier than before. We further hope that foreign traders in India will not have to pay hefty import duties on their products, with the advent of GST.
One cannot ignore the vital role of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the economic growth of India and Italy, respectively. Going forward, the similarity of “entrepreneurial legacy” granted to firms on both sides provides a high level of dynamism and an equally remarkable organisational flexibility. In the future, this can help companies from both countries to further develop the ever-increasing trade across sectors.
Improved bilateral ties between Italy and India are paving the way for increased economic cooperation. As these two nations celebrate 70 years of diplomatic relations this year, we hope to continue building on our past successes and enabling achievement of our respective development goals through mutual understanding and economic partnership.
(The writer is trade commissioner/director of trade promotion section of the Italian embassy in New Delhi and coordinator of trade offices network in India)