KUALA LUMPUR, May 10 — Italy’s Ambassador to Malaysia Cristiano Maggipinto is positive that bilateral trade between Italy and Malaysia will flourish this year despite the setbacks caused by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

He pointed out that in 2020, trade between the two countries recorded a contraction of only 7.5 per cent, lower than the 11.6 per cent decline registered in the overall trade between Italy and the Asean region.

Malaysia’s exports to Italy also had a very slight contraction of 2.1 per cent last year.

“According to international reviews and figures, not only Malaysia, but also the entire region will probably be the first to return to growth after the pandemic.

“The economic forecast for Southeast Asia is very positive, so we are optimistic about that, and Italian and European companies can take advantage of the cooperation with Malaysia and this part of the world,” he said in an interview with Bernama recently.

Maggipinto said trade relations between Malaysia and Italy is on solid ground, demonstrated by the figures from 2015 to 2019, provided by the Italian Central Statistics Institute (ISTAT).

He stated that an increase of 33 per cent has been experienced within that period, with a growth of more than 32 per cent in Malaysian exports (US$1.3 billion) and more than 33 per cent in imports (US$1.4 billion).

In 2019 alone, he said trade between Italy and Malaysia had exceeded US$2.7 billion.

Almost one third of Malaysia’s exports to Italy is made up of agricultural products, in particular palm oil, followed by plastic and rubber materials as well as electrics and electronics products.

Among Italy’s main exports to Malaysia are industrial machinery and equipment, electronic products and electro-medical devices, aircraft, automotive, chemical and pharmaceutical products, household devices and appliances, consumer goods such as food and beverage, clothing and footwear and jewellery.

“There is a lot of space for increasing trade and economic ties” he said adding that the Italian community and Italian companies present in Malaysia have doubled in recent years.

Maggipinto said the number of Italian companies surveyed by the Embassy have reached 110, compared to 50 in 2012.

He cited STMicroelectronics factory in Muar, Johor, with more than 4,000 Malaysian employees, as an emblematic example of the Italian contribution to the Malaysia’s economic development. — Bernama