ROME: Italy, the eurozone's third largest economy, is looking for partnerships with UAE sovereign wealth funds to jointly invest in Africa and Asia, as it looks to expand trade and investment relations, its Trade Commissioner in the UAE said.
“We would like to engage UAE sovereign wealth funds to be partners … in Africa to joint venture with them and to fund projects, as ... Africa will be the next lion [big market] in economic terms,” Gianpaolo Bruno, who oversees trade promotion in the UAE, Oman and Pakistan, told The National in an interview, report agencies.“Southeast Asia would be another destination. Countries look more and at China and Southeast Asian countries … [and] we are also looking at that as well."
Italy,which has struggled to kick-start growth, is laden with debt and is at odds with European counterparts on spending and budgetary plans. Rome needs foreign direct investment to help stabalise its economy and drive growth. The government of Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte is in talks with UAE investors and sovereign funds for potential investment in Italian logistics, tourism and technology-intensive industries.
“We are engaging them [sovereign funds] in order to understand where we can partner with them successfully and of course we would like to see them more and more engaged in Italy. We would like to see more investment flows from the UAE,” Mr Bruno said. He declined to name the sovereign funds.
Italy is planning to setup at least two large-scale free zones adjacent to ports in the southern part of the country. Italian authorities have already initiated talks with DP World, the fourth biggest ports operator in the world, and Jabel Ali Free Zone Authority in Dubai for potential partnerships for the development of the proposed free zones.
Initial response for the UAE counterparts has been “very good” for the projects, which could be the “gateways to access the important markets in Europe”, he added.
Italian companies have major investment interests in the UAE, especially in the country’s oil and sector, one of the biggest driver of foreign direct investments in the UAE. Italian oil and gas major Eni, in January won three concessions in Sharjah’s first-ever competitive bid.