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ITALY IN PURSUIT OF NEW BUSINESS OPPORTUNITIES AT TRIPOLI TRADE FAIR
At the beginning of March 2009, the friendship, partnership and cooperation treaty – the process that solved the long-standing dispute regarding Italy's colonial past in Tripolitania and Cyrenaica and initiated a phase of economic cooperation between Italy and Libya - was ratified. The energy and infrastructure sectors are those most affected by the agreement, which involves the financing of operations on Libyan territory by Italian industry to the tune of 5 billion dollars over a 20-year period. At a time of relaxed relations between the two Mediterranean countries - with the two simultaneously aiming to intensify their mutual economic relations - and the creation of economic opportunities for Italian enterprises in sight, the next edition of Tripoli International Fair takes on an even greater importance. In 2009, the ICE (Italian Trade Commission) will be repeating the collective participation it has organised for past editions.
After the embargo against Libya was lifted, increasingly tangible business opportunities for Italian companies appeared on the horizon; the African country is, in fact, totally dependent on imports. While already substantial, trade between the two economies could benefit from a further boost, such as the Libyan government paying more attention to domestic consumption growth and the development of non-energy sectors, including the communications, infrastructure, agriculture, and tourism industry. Italy has been Libya's number one exporter for years and it looks like 2008, if partial data collected in the first quarter end up confirmed, may well have been a record year for bilateral trade. Around 100 Italian companies - mainly connected to the oil, infrastructure, machinery, capital goods and construction industries - have made their presence in the country permanent. The biggest Italian investor in Libya is the oil group Eni, present in the North African country since 1959.
Tripoli International Fair, running from April 2nd to April 12th 2009, is an annual fixture: now at its 37th edition, it is dedicated to capital goods, durable consumer goods and mass-market consumer goods. It is considered to be Libya’s best exhibition for showcasing Italian exports. The most common Italian products exported to Libya are: agricultural machinery, packaging and confectionery machinery, marble processing machinery, metalworking machine tools, plastics processing machinery, woodworking machinery, cold chain equipment, construction materials and equipment, furniture, clothing, food products and general consumer goods.
Not to mention tourism services, telecommunications and - of course - all the infrastructure projects. Indeed, there are infrastructure opportunities on the horizon that could be very attractive for Italian export: the friendship treaty signed between Italy and Libya requires that the execution of these works – as agreed by a joint committee - be entrusted to Italian companies. In recent months, some leading Italian companies have already won important contracts, as is the case with Impregilo, the general contractor, who, in July 2008, finalised contracts worth 400 million Euros for the design and construction of three university centres in the cities of Misuratah, Tarhunah and Zliten. Construction is scheduled for completion in 2001. Impregilo has a long tradition in Libya, and of all the many projects carried out by the Italian group, the following deserve a special mention: Kufra, Benina, Misuratah, El Wotia and Sirte airports; the ports of Ras Lanuf, Benghazi and Homs; ministerial centres and Libyan Parliament buildings in Sirte, and industrial complexes in the cities of Ras Lanuf and Misuratah.