The Slovenia Times

2005 Was an Excellent Year



A decade ago trade between the two countries largely consisted of the casinos and other services along the border that catered to Italian tourists but now Slovenia and Italy's economic ties are far deeper and more vast. From cars to marble - the products and businesses from the country of bel-canto are finding their way to Slovenia. If Italian tourists represented the largest share (19.5 %) of foreign tourists to Slovenia in 2005, then Italian consumers also did their part for the Slovene economy. For the last four years, Italy has been Slovenia's second-largest trading partner, in exports as well as imports. In the words of Florindo Blandolino, Italy's trade promotion attach' to Slovenia, and the director of ICE in Ljubljana, "2005 was an excellent year as far as trade relations between our two countries are concerned." This trade has some of its roots during the communist era, when Trieste and Italy represented a shopping oasis for Slovenes. It was a sort of consumer-getaway from the grey monotony of a planned economy to a land of choice. Jeans, coffee, and designer clothes were the most common products smuggled back into Yugoslavia. When communism ended, many things changed. Conning the customs officers ceased to be a popular sport, but Italian products remained fashionable and were still regarded as a status symbol. Marble for fireplaces and for designer tiles in kitchens and bathrooms, as well as fast cars - all from Italy - are still on many Slovene's wish-lists. But these products do not make up the largest share of imported goods. In 2005, Slovenia imported EUR 2.997 billion worth of goods from Italy and exported EUR 1.803 billion. Data from the Slovene Chamber of Commerce (GZS) shows that in 2004 the import of cars, car parts and transportation vehicles was second to the import of petroleum, while the main exports to Italy were cars, aluminium, and electrical energy. Italian data shows that the same more or less remained true for 2005, yet it is interesting to note the growth in the importance of the sectors where small and medium enterprises play a major role. "Consider the food sector, which in the first ten months of 2005, rose from EUR 110.7 million to 164.2," illustrates Mr Blandolino. Presenting Italians... However, this bustling international trade does not just happen all by itself. Apart from the efforts of companies themselves and the commercial chambers, government initiatives also play a role. When it comes to Italy, this is done by the local ICE office. Since 2004, this is what the "Trade promotion sections" of all the Italian Embassies around the world have been known as. The economic department of the Italian embassy in Slovenia, the ICE - Instituto nazionale per il Commercio Estero - is an institution that searches for business partners, promotes SMEs (small and medium enterprises) and offers operative assistance to Italian companies doing business in Slovenia. Italy opened its "trade promotion office" in Ljubljana in 1993, one of 80 countries in the world where Italy has such offices. Today, Mr Blandolino heads a team of five Slovenes. In March, the ICE participated at the Ljubljana fair Dom, where they presented some 30 Italian SMEs from the fields of construction and interior design. Producers of marble, interior doors, ceramic tiles, taps and others were all looking for business opportunities in Slovenia. And what were the results? "It is somewhat early to make an assessment of the effectiveness of our promotion," was the first comment, but it was also said that "the enthusiastic feedback that we have received from the participants, particularly by those who sell marble products, leads us to believe that we should already be planning our presence at Dom 2007." The team is also thinking about planning on participating, with interested Italian companies, at Forma Tool, MOS (International Trade Fair) in Celje, and the Agricultural Fair in Gornja Radgona. ... and helping Slovenes Though the ICE is an institution that supports the internationalisation of Italian SMEs, they also provide services for Slovene companies - organising trade missions and workshops, B-to-B meetings, etc. Mr. Blandolino explains that "as far as Slovenian firms are concerned, the most important - and by far the most requested - service we provide is searching for Italian business partners." An interesting point in today's era of technology, is that Slovene firms tend to prefer personal contact with the office rather than using the website Italtrade. Apart from that, this year more than 20 Slovene companies will participate at five trade missions at Italian fairs. For example in May, more than 10 of them will be guests at the Xylexpo exhibition of wood processing machines in Milan.


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