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Boats, baubles and balsamic lift Italian exports to UAE

Italian exporters Dubai boat show 2024 Reuters/Abdel Hadi Ramahi
More than 20 Italian companies attended Dubai's International Boat Show in early March
  • Bilateral trade up 6% in 10 months
  • $1bn of Italian jewellery bought in 2023
  • Food exports to Emirates up 8%

Italian boat manufacturers were out in force at the Dubai International Boat Show earlier this month, doubtless buoyed by the news that nautical exports to the UAE totalled nearly $120 million in the first 11 months of 2023. 

More than 20 Italian companies attended the event at Dubai Harbour, part of a strengthening Italy-UAE trade relationship that includes jewellery, food and defence.

Bilateral trade increased by 6 percent in the first 10 months of 2023, to $7.6 billion. That was after trade topped $8.7 billion in 2022, a 19 percent rise on the previous year. In 2022, Italian exports to the UAE accounted for $6.5 billion of the total. 

Valerio Soldani, the Italian trade commissioner to the UAE, told AGBI that Italy was the second-biggest supplier to the Emirates from the European Union. 

“Commercial relations between the UAE and Italy are solid and growing stronger,” he said.

“The outlook for 2024 is optimistic, with expectations of continued growth,” Soldani added, pointing to a $500 billion pipeline of planned projects in the Emirates. 

Luxury products are an important slice of Italian exports to the UAE and the wider Gulf.

Soldani said that in the 10 months to October 2023, Italian jewellery exports to the UAE totalled nearly $1 billion, with a market share of about 9 percent. 

“Demand for luxury goods is strong… This creates even more opportunities for Italian jewellers,” he said

The UAE is Italy’s third-largest market for jewellery exports and more than 40 Italian manufacturers took part in the 53rd Watch and Jewellery Middle East Show at the Sharjah Expo Centre earlier this month.

Gold and silver jewellery is one of the most export-oriented manufacturing sectors in Italy. More than 85 percent of turnover comes from foreign markets. 

Lorenzo Fanara, Italy’s ambassador to the UAE, said: “Emirati customers appreciate the excellence, quality and outstanding design of Italian jewels, inspired by our rich heritage and manufacturing tradition.”

Last month the bilateral relationship grew closer with the signing of a joint venture between the UAE defence and tech company Edge and the Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri. 

Edge said it would hold a 51 percent stake in the venture, which has a commercial pipeline valued at more than $32 billion.

Adult, Male, ManItalian Trade Agency
Valerio Soldani: ‘Growing potential for collaboration’

Soldani said: “Given the substantial volume of trade, shared initiatives and our positive outlook for the future, we are witnessing growing potential for collaboration.” 

The Italian Trade Agency aims to bring hundreds of Italian companies to the UAE to explore more partnerships with local companies, according to Soldani. 

Food is also an important export market for Italy and more than 200 Italian companies participated in Gulfood 2024 in Dubai last month. Italian food exports to the UAE rose by more than 8 percent in the 11 months to November last year, reaching a value of $446 million. 

Fanara said the UAE was an “increasingly important market” for Italian agri-food exports. 

Last September the Dubai International Chamber opened an representative office in Milan, as the number of Italian companies registered with the Dubai Chamber of Commerce rose to 1,758.

The UAE and Italy elevated relations to the level of a strategic partnership in March 2023, after a meeting in Abu Dhabi between the president of the UAE, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and Italy’s prime minister, Giorgia Meloni.

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