There is strong demand for Italian goods in the UAE with €3.8 billion ($4 billion) worth of goods exported by the country in the first eight months of 2022, representing a 25.8 per cent increase compared to 2021, Amedeo Scarpa, Italian Trade Commissioner, told Gulf Construction’s Bina Goveas.
In an exclusive interview following The Big 5 show last month (December 5 to 8), the trade commissioner said more and more Italian companies are interested in the UAE as an export market. This was apparent in Italy’s participation at the region’s largest construction showcase held in Dubai where the country had a major contingent of 250 exhibitors showcasing their products and services.
Over the last three decades, 600 Italian companies have opened their offices in the UAE to operate in this region as well as to be closer to Asia and Africa. Italian contractors hold credit for landmarks such as the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi and the dome of the Al Wasl Plaza at Expo 2020 Dubai.
Scarpa attributed the success of Italian companies in the region to the quality of their products, the tailor-made solutions offered and the ‘Made in Italy’ design promise. Another reason for the growth of business is the fact that Italy is setting an example in the green construction market, he said.
Excerpts of the interview:
How many Italian companies exhibited at The Big 5? What are the main construction and interior sectors in which they operate?
Almost 250 Italian companies showcased their latest products, technologies and machineries for the building and construction sector at The Big 5 and at Middle East Stone exhibitions that were held last month (December 5 to 8) at the Dubai World Trade Centre.
Of these, 35 exhibitors were hosted in the official Italy Pavilion, which was organised by the Italian Trade Agency (ITA) with the support of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation. These companies were specialised in doors, windows, shutters and related accessories, as well as construction materials for every type of civil and industrial application.
Their participation was part of the “Caseitaly” project and realised in collaboration with associations such as Acmi (Assocostruttori Chiusure and Meccanismi Italia), Anfit (Associazione Nazionale per la tutela della Finestra Made in Italy), Assites (Associazione Italiana Tende, Schermature Solari e Chiusure Tecniche), Finco (Federazione Industrie Prodotti Impianti Servizi ed Opere Specialistiche per le Costruzioni) and Pile (Produttori e Installatori Lattoneria Edile).
A further 44 companies specialised in natural stone, marble and ceramics industry were housed in the Italy Pavilion at Middle East Stone organised by the ITA in collaboration with Confindustria Marmomacchine, the Italian association of producers and processors of marbles, granites and natural stones in general, and of manufacturers of machinery, complete plants, tools and complementary products to quarry and processing natural stones.
How many Italian companies are active and/or have an office in the Gulf region?
There is a strong demand for Italian goods in the UAE with €3.8 billion worth of goods exported from Italy to the UAE as of August 2022, representing a 25.8 per cent increase compared to 2021.
More and more Italian companies are interested in the UAE as an export market. Over the last 30 years, 600 Italian companies have opened their offices in the UAE to operate in this region but also to be closer to Asia and Africa.
What are the initiatives being taken by the Italian Trade Agency to promote the country’s presence in the Gulf region?
The Italian Trade Agency (ITA) is the government agency which promotes the globalisation of Italian firms, under the aegis of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The agency helps to develop, facilitate and promote Italian economic and trade relations with foreign countries, focusing on the needs of SMEs, their associations and partnerships. ITA supports Italian firms in their internationalisation process, promoting the marketing of Italian goods and services as well as the image of ‘Made in Italy’ products around the world, while facilitating outward Italian investments and encouraging FDI attraction into Italy.
Trade between Italy and the UAE witnessed a 24.5 per cent increase in its stone products and 18 per cent surge in other products this year; to what factors do you attribute this increase?
Italian manufacturers of building construction materials and natural stones have significantly increased their export activities to the Middle East and, in particular, to the UAE in the last 10 years. The winning factors of this growth have been the quality of the products, the tailor-made solutions and, last but not least, the ‘Made in Italy’ design promise.
In addition, in recent years, Italian manufacturers have developed products with improved energy efficiency and are developing solutions and technologies to reduce their environmental impact.
The construction sector in the Gulf region is highly competitive. What gives Italian companies and products an edge in the market?
Italian construction companies keep working on research and innovation in order to further improve their products and solutions in terms of efficiency and to meet the highest standards of sustainable construction. Italy is setting an example in the green construction market and this, as well as the credibility of ‘Made in Italy’ as a guarantee of quality, are making Italian products stand out from the competitors.
What percentage of Italy’s exports does the Gulf region absorb? What is the total value of construction products and equipment exports to the region?
More than €100 million of Italian building materials, including marble and natural stones, fuels yearly the UAE construction market. There is a growing trend with an increase of 21 per cent registered in the first half of 2022.
What are some of the major construction projects in the UAE which are being built by Italian companies?
Italian companies have always played a significant role in the UAE construction sector, managing to obtain important contracts, despite operating in a very competitive context. From design to materials, from engineering to components and subcontracting, a lot of Italian companies were involved in building the skyline and infrastructure network of the UAE.
The Great Mosque in Abu Dhabi and numerous desalination plants were built by the Italian company Webuild (previously Salini-Impreglio), which recently won the international tender promoted by the Abu Dhabi Sewerage Services Company (ADSSC) for the construction of a 40-km-long aqueduct that will connect the island on which Abu Dhabi stands and the purification plant on the land.
Cimolai Rimond supplied the truss structure for the 67.5-m-high and 130-m-wide dome of the Al Wasl Plaza dome at Expo 2020 Dubai that became the inspiring architectural work at the heart of Expo 2020.
Again, one of the latest projects built in the UAE – the Al Shindagha bridge – was realised by Maeg Costruzioni.
Pizzarotti, Todini, Webuild, Astaldi STS and Pool Engineering are just some of the many Italian companies that contributed to the UAE infrastructure, real estate and construction sector, among the most advanced and innovative in the world.
With sustainability being a key focus area, please highlight why Italian companies are well geared to meet the region’s goals?
Italy ranks eighth in the world for LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification. The ranking highlights countries that are making significant strides in healthy, sustainable building design, construction and operations.
Environmental sustainability has become a priority for the Italian building and construction sector and stakeholders along the whole construction value chain are becoming more responsible and are developing solutions and technologies to reduce their environmental impact. The Italian green construction market is growing very quickly; it is on track to reach a value of $187.4 billion by 2027 with an annual increase rate of 8.6 per cent.
Italy is consolidating a leadership position in Europe in the field of sustainable construction and the Italian Government is incentivising energy efficiency measures in existing private and public buildings with dedicated funds and a programme which includes, among others, fiscal facilities for green renewal of buildings and infrastructures (estimated value of fiscal benefits: almost €18 billion).
Over the last years, 46,537 companies in the sector (28.7 per cent of the total) have made green investments to improve processes and products with a view to sustainability. This process, if pursued and enhanced, could help the energy requalification of the national real estate assets, responsible for about 40 per cent of CO2 emissions, reducing dependency on traditional fossil fuels and making the Italian building industry one of the most modern and competitive in the world.