Weekly economic review

Last week Italy's Minister of Economic Development, Pier Luidji Bersani, visited Azerbaijan. His visit was aimed at strengthening economic relations between the two countries, especially in the energy sector which is of most interest for Italy's Minister and ministers of other foreign countries who visited Azerbaijan.

Thus, firstly a protocol on co-operation in the gas sector was signed between Azerbaijan and Italy. According to the Italian Minister, Italy is the biggest gas consumer and the co-operation with Azerbaijan will expand possibilities of gas export to Italy.

According to the protocol, the Azerbaijani gas will be transported to Italy via Turkey and Greece within the Turkey-Greece-Italy corridor. Probably by 2012 some 8bln cu.m of Azerbaijani gas will be transported to Europe.

Other ministers will also make such visits to Azerbaijan and the Azerbaijani Government is more concerned by the strengthening of the gas exporter status for Azerbaijan. Particularly Azerbaijan's Minister of Economic Development, Heydar Babayev, highlighted the importance of signing protocol with Italy. According to him, it establishes alternative sources of energy for Europe.

This is the second visit of the Italian Minister to Azerbaijan. For the first time, Bersani arrived in Azerbaijan in 1999. "I become the witness of the establishment of the current economic strategy of Azerbaijan, and signing the agreement in 1999 was the first step for co-operation between the countries, but now the turn of relations of Europe with Azerbaijan and Central Asia came," the Minister said.

In addition, Italy expressed its interest in diversifying economic co-operation with Azerbaijan. A large economic delegation will come to Azerbaijan in mid January 2008 to determine more perspective sectors of co-operation. Italy expects plans of co-operation from the Azerbaijani side and after becoming familiarized with them, the Italian business people will devise their business plans. Naturally there are other sectors in Azerbaijan where it also needs to expand economic co-operation. More priority spheres for Italy are infrastructure, industry, securities market, banking sector.

It needs to note that toady Italy is the key external-trade partner of Azerbaijan. As a result of 2006, the gross amount of the trade turnover between Azerbaijan and Italy totaled $2.9bln. The biggest amount of export in January to October 2007 fell on Turkey, which has gone ahead of Italy over the past three months. In the past nine months, Azerbaijan exported commodities totaling $638.1mln to Italy.

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