ROME, Sept. 18 (Xinhua) -- China and Italy have maintained high-level growth of relations with fruitful cooperation in various fields, which has earned broad recognition, a former Italian official has said.
Bilateral ties, especially in the economic and trade fields, have made a "leap forward," Vito Petrocelli, former Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Italian Senate, told Xinhua, describing the two economies as highly complementary, and the interests of Italian companies as closely linked to the Chinese market.
Petrocelli said that cooperation between the two countries in the economic, cultural, political, and social fields has become a "benchmark" within the European Union, attesting to the need to develop a comprehensive strategic partnership between the two sides.
Data from China's General Administration of Customs show that two-way trade has hit new highs for three consecutive years, amounting to 77.884 billion U.S. dollars in 2022, up 5.4 percent year on year.
In the first five months of this year, Italy's exports to China increased by 58 percent, according to the Italian National Institute of Statistics.
The first large cruise ship jointly built by the two countries was successfully commissioned, and the total value of the six jointly-built cruise ships was worth nearly 5 billion dollars. STMicroelectronics, a technology company of French-Italian origin, and Chinese companies jointly invested 3.2 billion dollars to build factories in China.
Italy has become one of the most popular destinations for Chinese tourists to visit in Europe, and many Italian cultural and artistic exhibitions, including paintings and operas, attracted a large Chinese audience. The number of Chinese students in Italy continues to grow and currently stands at 29,000, while there are around 6,000 Italian students in China.
Marco Tronchetti Provera, executive vice president of Italian tire manufacturer Pirelli, said that the company's high-end product business in China has been growing steadily, and by cooperating with Chinese companies, Pirelli has increased its competitiveness and global popularity. Pirelli opened its first factory in China in 2005 and currently has nearly 4,000 retail outlets in the country.
According to a survey conducted by the Italy China Council Foundation, 84 percent of Italian enterprises are positive about the economic and trade relations between China and Italy and their development prospects.
Italy has been invited to participate in various exhibitions in China and was the guest of honor at both the expos in Shanghai and in Hainan, through which high-quality Italian products have entered thousands of Chinese households.
Altagamma, an Italian foundation of luxury brands, attends the consumer expo in Hainan this year with 75 of its high-end brands, including Gucci, Maserati, Lamborghini, and Ducati.
"The scale and growth of China's high-end consumer market are difficult to achieve in other countries," said Stefania Lazzaroni, general manager of Altagamma, adding that the Chinese market represents a unique opportunity and the foundation is willing to strengthen links and enhance presence in China which is relevant in the area.
Illycaffe, one of Italy's best-known coffee brands, is betting big on the Chinese market over the next few years.
"We have studied to determine which markets can become a second home market for us and the best option is China," said Illy's chief executive Cristina Scocchia.
The company has an expansion strategy which it believes will enable it to double or triple its sales in China by 2026, outpacing the growth of the market as a whole.
In northern China's harbor city of Tianjin, a bustling Italian SME Industrial Park has become a hub for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) from Italy. Established in 2019, it has so far attracted more than 30 Italian SMEs.
Patrizio Valsoni, general manager of CIMU Science, acknowledged the fast development in China and the changes in the market. "This provided opportunities for us. We will continue to invest in China in the future."
Romano Prodi, former European Commission president and former Italian prime minister, said that China's economy plays a key role in Europe's economic recovery, and that Italy and China need to expand cooperation in various fields to make it more comprehensive and deeper.
Michele Geraci, former undersecretary of state at the Italian Ministry of Economic Development, said that the modern Silk Road has more potential for the development of Italy-China relations, and some projects involving ports and transportation have become one of the basic pillars of many countries, which represents a potentially huge market for Italy. ■