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Anatomy of a recovery and the role of exports

    • Meeting in digital format
    • 30 September 2021

          The Made in Italy brand and its propensity for exportation has always been an essential component of the Italian economy, playing a crucial role in the development and growth of the national entrepreneurial fabric. Exports continue to be a driver of the economy’s competitiveness thanks to progress that is predicted to surpass 11% in 2021, with prospects over the next three years of maintaining a pace beyond that of the pre-pandemic period.

          Current growth is owed to the recovery of global GDP and international trade. Recovery is heterogeneous, however, at both sector and geographic levels. The scenario is marked by a weakness in consumption in China and the strong push in the United States to “buy American”. To date, obstacles of this sort have not slowed Italian export growth, which is capable of maintaining a strong presence on those markets as well as European ones such as Germany’s. Growth prospects are also good, and likely to expand to other Asian-Pacific economies as well as the Gulf countries and Russia.

          Identifying the markets where recovery is going to be more intense and where opportunities are greater remains a fundamental factor. Italy is well-equipped to support the internationalization of its businesses and to improve Italian products’ position on foreign markets. Nevertheless, the challenge to this system, starting with SACE, remains that of fostering the growth not only of exports but also of the number of export firms.

          Another challenge is to sustain international growth during a phase of deep uncertainty marked by changes, starting with the movement of global value chains. This is not so much as question of a wholesale shift to reshoring or nearshoring, which has not happened, as of a correction made necessary by the pandemic and destined to balance efficiency and supply security.

          In that regard, it is important to underscore that post-pandemic adjustment processes highlight how the Covid crisis differs from the financial downturn of 2008: i.e. it is not endogenous and, while it has dealt a heavy blow to supply and demand, it does not appear destined to have serious lasting effects. What’s more, after the strong contraction of 2020, international trade is headed for robust recovery, and Italian exports fall fully within that trend.

          In light of this scenario, Italy must put National Recovery and Resilience Plan (PPNR) funds to their best use, given the opportunity they offer to create a more competitive system based on sustainable development and digital innovation. Reforms and investments associated with the PNRR kindle hope in GDP growth as well as in the productivity of factors, jobs in particular, that form the country’s main structural concerns. These are changes that can have an impact on price competitiveness, triggering a virtuous circle for Italian exports that over the years have been driven above all by growth in the luxury goods sector.