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Italian businesses use CIIE platform to expand in China market

By WANG XIN in Shanghai and ZHENG WANYIN in Milan | China Daily Global | Updated: 2024-06-25 10:10
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Italian exhibitors prove to be a hit at the second China International Import Expo in Shanghai in 2019. CHINA DAILY

Italian businesses have been keen to seek entry to and expand in the Chinese market through the China International Import Expo, which takes place in November every year in Shanghai since 2018.

Raffaele Cattaneo, undersecretary with responsibility for international and European relations in Italy's Lombardy region, where Milan is located, emphasized the mutual benefits of the import expo. He noted that China has increasingly grown into an important destination market for Italian exports.

The presence of a growing middle-income group in China "desires quality products and designs that embody a sense of style and beauty, which is influencing tastes in Italy as well. This is something that we Italians don't often talk about", he said. "We are interested in, and we rely on initiatives like the CIIE."

Cattaneo also mentioned the sister-city relationship between Shanghai and Milan and described the partnership as "important and strategic". The two cities joined hands in 1979 to become sister cities. Later, Shanghai also established friendly exchanges with Lombardy.

Based on many similarities in the economic needs of both sides, cooperation can be strengthened in the areas of fashion, food, furniture, technology and more, he said.

Guido D'Amico, president of the Confimprese Italia federation representing Italian micro, small and medium-sized businesses, said the expo can provide "revolutionary" opportunities, given the scale of the expo and the size of the Chinese market.

The federation and two Italian firms signed contracts or memorandums of cooperation with the CIIE Bureau, the expo's organizer, confirming their participation in this year's seventh CIIE at a promotional conference, which was held in Milan on April 19 and attracted representatives from nearly 150 Italian businesses and institutions.

At the event, Sun Chenghai, deputy director-general of the CIIE Bureau, said Italy, as a longtime friend of the CIIE, has participated for six consecutive years.

Noting that this year marks the 20th anniversary of the comprehensive strategic partnership between China and Italy, Sun expressed hope that the CIIE could contribute to consolidating and promoting Sino-Italian economic and trade relations.

Gong Lifeng, co-founder of Vetiver, is a Shanghainese dedicated to bringing in Italian jewelry to the Chinese market.

Back in 2018, Gong had the opportunity to attend the expo and made an attempt to sell some German and Italian products, most of which were quickly sold out.

This initial success gave Gong lots of confidence.

In the hope of organizing more Italian exhibitors to attend the second CIIE in 2019, Gong flew to Milan and collaborated with Confindustria Federorafi, Italy's national federation of goldsmiths, silversmiths and jewelry manufacturers.

Eyeing opportunities

Eyeing huge opportunities in the Chinese market, the federation also helped Gong obtain The Extraordinary Italian Jewelry authorization, a tribute to the excellence of Italian craftsmanship.

Gong, together with the Italian jewelry exhibitors, made a huge success at the second CIIE. Again, almost all of their products were sold out during the six-day expo.

"We were all so excited, as we have been billing (at the second CIIE) — almost nonstop … We ranked first and were the most popular exhibitors in the jewelry sector that year," Gong recalled.

"The CIIE provides a premier platform to test out Chinese consumers' tastes and demands …Luckily, we have seized the national level opportunity."

With remarkable outcomes on both sides, Gong's partnership with Italian jewelry businesses has even expanded. Gong has accumulated a customer base of over 40,000 and saw the import value of Italian jewelry exceed 1 million euros ($1.08 million) per year.

Bearing fruitful results from six editions of the CIIE and steady partnerships with Italian businesses, Gong is eyeing bolder goals.

"We have signed up for this year's CIIE, and will double our booth size compared with last year," he said. "In addition to bringing in more new brands and products to the expo, we are also preparing for the opening of our new store at The Bund in September, to introduce more Italian products, craftsmanship and businesses to customers."

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