by Alessandra Cardone
MILAN, Nov. 17 (Xinhua) -- The Belt and Road Initiative would provide long-term development chances for growing industry sectors in Italy and China, according to professionals from both countries.
The issue was discussed at a recent forum held in Italian city of Milan, which attracted Italian and Chinese entrepreneurs, officials, and experts.
Titled "Building a concrete roadmap for Italy and China's Joint Growth", the event was organized by Italy-China Foundation with the patronage of the Italian Ministry of Economic Development and the Chinese Ministry of Commerce.
"As a comprehensive project, the Belt and Road (initiative) might give all companies a strong opportunity to reduce their costs, and cut distances in both cultural, infrastructural, and logistical terms," Massimiliano Guzzini, vice president of lighting technology firm IGuzzini, told Xinhua.
The Belt and Road Initiative, which comprises the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, was proposed by China in 2013, with the aim of building a trade, investment and infrastructure network connecting Asia with Europe and Africa along the ancient trade routes.
Having spent years in China, where the firm opened a branch in 2005, the entrepreneur is able to observe "great changes" in the Chinese society, and the consumer trends in Asia overall.
"Design was not yet well known at the time (2005), but since then I have seen Chinese firms, training courses, and universities' departments and research centers growing steadily in the sector," Guzzini said.
Now that the industry was showing vibrant signals of potential growth in the area, the Belt and Road Initiative would "indeed boost the future development of our industry", he added.
For Italy, China is currently the ninth largest market for exports, and the first target market for sales to the Asia-Pacific region, according to Italy's state-owned export credit agency SACE. The trade exchange between the two countries suggest there is room for broad development.
Italian sales to China reached 11.1 billion euros (13.2 billion U.S. dollars) in 2016, marking a 6.4 percent rise over the previous year, and are expected to increase by some 296.8 million euros (350.2 million U.S. dollars) by 2020, the agency's data and forecast showed.
Apparel, jewellery, fibres and yarns, drugs and pharmaceutical products, machinery, shoes, and textile are among Italy's top 10 sectors in terms of exports to China, according to Italy-China Foundation.
On the other hand, Italy is China's fifth largest commercial partner for trade volume, and has become one of the major recipient countries of Chinese investments in Europe in latest years. As such, projects related to the Belt and Road Initiative would likely benefit many different industries.
For example, in terms of facilities connectivity, which was among the five cooperation priorities of the Initiative, as Vice President of China National Textile and Apparel Council (CNTAC) Xu Yingxin said at the forum.
"It means helping to develop infrastructure construction of railways, highways, ports, electric power, and telecommunications in the Belt and Road countries," Xu said.
Xu told Xinhua that the Belt and Road Initiative is meant to benefit all of the countries involved. "It means we could have in the future a stronger and more unified market, which is good for everybody, including China."
As for the specific sector he represents, the textile industry, Xu deemed the Initiative has come in the right moment.
"I think China's textile industry is in a very critical phase of transformation and adjustment, and the Belt and Road Initiative provides us with the opportunities to expand," he said.