BAKU, Azerbaijan, June 9. The Italian Trade Agency (ITA) in Baku is planning to arrange a business delegation from Italy to Azerbaijan, Andrea Maccanico, Director of the ITA said in an exclusive interview with Trend.
According to him, the agency strives to bring representatives of some Italian regions to present themselves here. This mission is going to include representatives of the Italian tourism and agricultural sectors. As Maccanico noted, ITA often arranges missions from Italy to Azerbaijan and vice-versa.
"Two months ago we arranged a visit of an Azerbaijani delegation to Italy's Piedmont region. There were journalists, importers, bloggers, and so on. The idea was to make Italian regions more well-known to Azerbaijani businessmen. So, residents of the region were glad to have the opportunity to interact with the Azerbaijani delegation and now are willing to come to Azerbaijan," he said.
Maccanico added that the planned timing for the mission is in September or October 2023.
"The main purpose of it is to build connections and communication. Thus, our main goal for this year is to go on like this and arrange more missions both to Italy and from Italy to Azerbaijan," he added.
Overall, according to Maccanico, there are three main events that are held in Azerbaijan constantly: Italian Design Day, Italian Cuisine Week and Republic Day.
"Also, I constantly keep in touch with local restaurants, bars, and hotels. If they are going to host some events dedicated to Italy, we are here to support them in several ways," he added.
"New ideas for events are generally proposed by us [Andrea Maccanico and Italian Ambassador to Azerbaijan Claudio Taffuri] to the headquarters in Italy. There, they decide which program or event should be financed. Just for you to understand the scale of the projects we implement here, this year only for the promotional events we are going to spend around 500,000 euro," he said.
Speaking further about the agency's ongoing projects, the director noted that the ITA conducts plenty of projects to support Italian businesses wishing to operate in Azerbaijan.
According to Maccanico, the agency is particularly interested in providing more real made-in-Italy products, and in order to do so has plenty of projects. Thus, one of the agency's key initiatives is its incoming project which is designed to support Italian enterprises interested in doing business in Azerbaijan and which involves inviting buyers, business representatives, bloggers, and importers to various events held in Italy.
"Throughout the year, we invite 30 to 50 people to exhibitions dedicated to different sectors, ranging from cosmetics and beauty to agriculture, food, and wines. This is one part of the job and this is very important for us since it helps us have good relations with importers, while we help them understand how the trade goes. Those are the exclusive fairs for professionals only, where you can see the state of the industry," he said.
As Maccanico noted, this is the first step in order to build bridges between Azerbaijan and Italy in terms of business - to find importers. Once importers have been identified, the Italian Trade Agency takes the next crucial step.
"The second step is to organize further business meetings and promotions to connect Azerbaijani importers with Italian producers," he said.
In addition to the agency's efforts in Italy, it also focuses on bringing Italian producers directly to Azerbaijan. As the director noted, one such upcoming event is a fair scheduled to take place in Baku on June 22.
"For instance, on June 22 we will be holding a fair with the participation of numerous Italian producers here in Baku. These producers are going to meet with importers. This event is not going to be open to the public; it is designed only for professionals. We expect attendance of 100-150 people," he said.
Andrea Maccanico clarified that because of the relatively limited number of Azerbaijani importers of food and beverage from Italy, particularly among smaller enterprises, the agency aims to connect with major players, and therefore will invite them to this event. This approach ensures wider distribution and a greater reach for Italian products in the country, as huge players are also connected with smaller businesses.
"During the event, there will be business-to-business (B2B) meetings. Hopefully, in the next 6 months, Italian producers will receive orders from Azerbaijan and here we will have new products. The idea is to increase the variety of products and lower the prices since imported food and beverages are always more expensive than the local ones," Maccanico added.
Speaking further about the areas of particular interest to Italian businesses in Azerbaijan, Andrea Maccanico noted that there are plenty of activities going on.
"There is really strong political friendship between the two countries. We are the main client of Azerbaijan in terms of energy trade. But in the same way, we also have many other businesses. For instance, we have Ansaldo Energia working in Azerbaijan - they signed a contract to modernize the power station. There is also an Italian company producing machinery for Azerbaijan's agriculture industry in a joint venture with an Azerbaijani manufacturer of tractors," he said.
Furthermore, according to the ITA director, there is also a large presence of Italian fashion brands in Azerbaijan. This industry is also of interest to the Italian SMEs and the Italian Trade Agency is always here to help them enter the market.
"Moreover, we are going to take part in the International Aerospace Conference that will take place in Baku in October. There we will bring companies from Italy engaged in the space sector. Also, we are going to launch the next edition of the conference which will take place in Milan in 2024 and which signifies very good relations between Azerbaijani Azercosmos and the Italian Space Agency," Maccanico added.
When it comes to helping Azerbaijani companies interested in doing business in Italy, the director noted that although this matter is not precisely included in the mandate of the agency, ITA also tries to help Azerbaijani companies as well.
"We signed a Memorandum of Understanding with AZPROMO, but the problem was that we signed this memorandum just before the COVID-19 pandemic, so everything was suspended. But apart from that I constantly keep in touch with ministries, agencies, and the Small and Medium Business Development Agency of Azerbaijan as the dialogue with counterparts is very important because we need to understand where Azerbaijan wants to go and how Italy can help," he said.
It is well-known that Italy remains Azerbaijan's top partner in terms of exports. In this regard, Maccanico highlighted that although the trade relations between the countries are based on Azerbaijan's exports of oil, Italy also exports goods to Azerbaijan.
"Azerbaijan's biggest import from Italy is composed of machinery. Machinery is quite a large sector and this is something that Italy is strongest at. For instance, in the agriculture sector, there are plenty of Italian companies that supply Azerbaijan with advanced machinery to help the country in plant cultivation and achieve a final product with more value-added," he said.
The Italian Trade Agency is a government agency. It operates through a worldwide network of 79 offices in 65 countries. One of these countries is Azerbaijan. ITA offices serve as the perfect entry point for companies looking to establish business relationships with Italian partners, encompassing activities such as sourcing Italian products and exploring investment opportunities within Italy.