ROME, November 23 (Reuters) – Italy on Monday signed a partnership with Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group to build virtual stores for Italian products, in a move aimed at boosting business-to-business (B2B) exports amid COVID-19 pandemic.
The “Made in Italy Pavilion” will serve as a permanent online exhibition where Italian companies will be able to show their products and catalogs to buyers around the world.
The project will initially target about 300 Italian companies, the Italian trade agency said in a statement, with a focus on small and medium-sized enterprises in the food and beverage, clothing and design sectors, and industrial technology.
SMEs are the backbone of Italy’s economy, with about 5.3 million companies employing more than 15 million people, a Prometeia research center study shows.
“I am sure our company will not only fulfill this task but will realize that this is a necessary and easy step to take,” said Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio in an online presentation on the initiative.
In September, Italian exports grew 2.1% year-on-year, said the national statistics bureau Istat, fueling hopes that foreign trade could revive an economy that is expected to contract at least 9% this year due to the coronavirus.
Alibaba, which does business in about 190 countries, saw sales for the post-COVID-19 November “Singles’ Day” shopping extravaganza reach $ 74 billion, making it the world’s largest sales event.
“The pandemic has taught us that we need to accelerate the digitization process … to sell Positano sandals, Sicilian ceramics and grappa from Friuli everywhere,” said Rodrigo Cipriani Foresio, general manager of Alibaba group’s southern Europe. ($ 1 = 0.8404 euros) (Reported by Angelo Amante, edited by Gavin Jones and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)