Emilia-Romagna, the “Silk Road” does not stop but trade with China is decreasing


Italy has left the memorandum on the new Silk Road signed in 2019 by the Conte 1 government, but the exchange between Emilia-Romagna and China continues and consolidates. In 2022 alone, Emilia-Romagna exported goods and services to China for 2 billion 749 million euros, equal to 3.3% of total regional exports: data which places the Chinese export market in seventh place among the most attractive for companies along the Via Emilia, after Germany, the United States, France, Spain, the United Kingdom and Poland. In the same year, the region imported 5 billion 891 million from the Dragon Country, equal to 11.2% of regional imports.

The negative trade balance

These trade flows, driven by manufacturing activity and analyzed by Art-Er on Istat data, therefore speak of a negative trade balance of over 3 billion, with a gap that has been widening between 2019 and 2022 and at a pace also more sustained in the last two years. But, in the first half of 2023, compared to the same period of 2022, regional exports to China fell by 11.4%, compared to a +2.7% of total regional exports, while imports it contracted by 26% (-0.9% decrease in total regional imports in the same period). Probably, from now to the near future, not much will change according to the councilor for economic development, Vincenzo Colla, who on the one hand pays attention to the regional agreements in place and to be continued with those territories and on the other to a geopolitical crisis with two wars going on. Moreover, there are another couple of elements to underline: in the medium-long term, regional exports to China have grown more intensely than national exports to the same country, while the opposite happens with imports.

The councilor: «Beware of conflicts»

«Emilia-Romagna, with its over 84 billion in total exports worldwide, is the leading region for exports, thanks to its high quality products; and it cannot fail to also look at the Chinese market – underlined the councilor -. More than the revocation of the signature from that letter of intent, attention must be paid to the two conflicts. However, with China there is the question of reciprocity, which is also the theme posed at the time by the President of the Republic, Sergio Mattarella. Exchanges must follow a certain balance and not be disproportionate. Emilia-Romagna is a region always available to dialogue with the world.” Relations which, in his opinion, will have to be strengthened in the country but also at a European level, avoiding “sovereignist policies”.

The Region’s comment

As regards the difference between export and import, the reasons are easily stated according to Colla: «High competitiveness, for example, on raw materials, metals, batteries, textile components. Then there is the automotive sector, which was also the focus of the Stellantis table: worldwide, 80 million cars were sold in 2022, of which 25 million were registered in China. Stellantis, in Italy, has registered 400 thousand of them. These are numbers that indicate the trend of the value chain today.”

The innovation campus

But there are not only economic exchanges with China, just think of the academic ones, as in the case of the now historic agreement with Guangdong, which among other things includes opportunities for students from that region at Muner University. The Chinese regions with which there are relations appreciate the technologies, the advanced digital systems and the tendency of Emilia-Romagna to become “a transversal campus enabling innovation”. Which is also what is required by Emilia-Romagna companies in terms of skills: a response to the gap between job supply and demand for all sectors.

This article is originally published on corrieredibologna.corriere.it


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