As an Institution, Our General Objective is to Help Create and Maintain the Most Favorable Conditions for Bilateral Trade

As an Institution, Our General Objective is to Help Create and Maintain the Most Favorable Conditions for Bilateral Trade

An interview with Mrs. Manuela Traldi, President, ITAZERCOM .

AT: Mrs. Manuela Traldi, please give me information about establishment history of ITAZERCOM . 

ITAZERCOM was established in 2012 with the purpose of promoting economic and trade relations between Italy and Azerbaijan. 

Actually, our law firm together with the Embassy of Azerbaijan to Italy realized that despite the existing commercial ties between our two countries, there were still great opportunities for bilateral trade development, in terms of both volumes and quality. It was concluded that a business association, having a very pragmatic approach, strong connections and members in both countries, could play a vital role in assisting in this matter. 

ITAZERCOM was presented to entrepreneurs and press on November 19th, 2012 at a very successful conference hosted by the Rome Chamber of Commerce with notable guest-speakers from both countries, followed by our first Azerbaijan-Italy Business Forum held in Baku on December 6th, 2012, with a representation of over 35 Italian companies. 

Since its creation, the Trade Institute has been working in coordination with the Embassy of Azerbaijan to Italy, AZPROMO and ASK, while cooperating on the Italian side with the Embassy of Italy in Baku, the governmental Agency for Italian Trade Promotion ICE, the Ministry of Economic Development, public financial institutions such as SACE and SIMEST, Chambers of Commerce, and Confindustria. 

ITAZERCOM, a non-profit organization, is currently in the accreditation process as chamber of commerce with the competent Italian authorities and is being registered in Azerbaijan. 

AT: What are the priority directions of the activities of ITAZERCOM? 

ITAZERCOM is operating at different levels. For members, our organization is becoming a business community, comprised of top companies of different sizes and from different economic sectors, all networking and sharing a level of excellence, an international vocation, and a commitment to establish solid commercial relationships in the respective countries, on the grounds of mutual trust and of our traditionally recognized special bond. 

As an institution, our general objective is to help create and maintain the most favorable conditions for bilateral trade, in constant cooperation with Azeri and Italian governmental bodies, public and financial institutions and business organizations. The results and benefits of the above extend of course beyond ITAZERCOM members. 

As part of our role, we also promote Azerbaijan and Italy while providing general information and support about the two countries respectively, not only to our members but also to the public, in the Italian, Azeri, Russian and English languages. 

In our opinion, a correct education is fundamental in order for entrepreneurs to have realistic expectations and develop a right approach to the market. 

For this reason, we organize, or regularly participate in, conferences and seminars about the opportunities offered by Azerbaijan. In my presentations, I usually highlight “Excellence, Innovation, and Motivation” as key requirements for introduction to the Azeri market. 

With Azerbaijan’s growing GDP per capita and increased development needs for the country, there is indeed a wide range of advanced technologies, services and products Italian companies can provide, in addition to the traditional activities in the oil & gas sector. High quality and strong commitment are an absolute “must” though. 

Our members can rely on ITAZERCOM’s support and assistance during the entire process, for example from preliminary market studies, to the establishment of a local branch through identification of an appropriate local partner and of the financing opportunities with the various financial institutions. 

Furthermore, we believe that the time may be right for Azeri companies to become more pro-active and start exploring new market and partnership opportunities outside of the country. Despite, and perhaps due to, Italy’s difficult economic situation, there are interesting investment opportunities and ITAZERCOM can play a role in supporting the Azeri firms addressing the particularities of the Italian market and be a conduit to gain contacts. 

AT: On what projects does ITAZERCOM plan to work in the near future and are there any specific talks with the government authorities on this purpose. 

In our ordinary activity, we are organizing regular, and very positive I must say, commercial missions to Azerbaijan for our Italian members, including one-on-one business meetings with companies and Government authorities specific to our members needs. There are also a few larger events scheduled in Baku for this year involving specific sectors, like construction, or territories. As a bilateral business organization, we are considering to have a few customized events in Italy for Azeri companies as well, and of course plan regular larger events, as under discussion with ASK, National Confederation of Entrepreneurs Organization of Azerbaijan. 

As an example of a particular initiative, in cooperation with AZPROMO, ITAZERCOM is promoting some major projects in the country, such as the Sumgait Chemical Park and working on some partnership projects involving transfer of technology and know-how from Italy. 

Another ambitious project we are carrying on in team with SIMEST and SACE addresses the difficulties still encountered in the Azeri banking system, which sometimes constitute an obstacle to trade, especially considering that access to credit in Italy is still rather problematic. 

We are also supporting the activity of our most active members, such as Milan/Florence based Enginera, the leading engineering and project management company or Vitrociset, with headquarters in Rome, one of the major Italian groups operating in IT, electronics and integrated logistics in areas of activity ranging from defence, air traffic control and environmental systems through satellite technology and telecommunications to transport and info-mobility. 

AT: Are you happy with economic and trade relations between Italy and Azerbaijan? 

Well, some figures are undoubtedly positive: Italy has been for some time now Azerbaijan’s first economic partner, with a bilateral turnover that exceeded €8.5 billion in 2011, being Azerbaijan Italy’s n.1 supplier of oil. 

Given my own professional background in the Oil & Gas industry, personally I could not be happier, or maybe I could, if in the future the Southern Corridor should connect Azerbaijani to Italy directly across the Adriatic Sea. 

Seriously though, I believe that there are more and better opportunities to come and that bilateral trade can grow substantially over the next decade in other sectors, opening new important chapters in the relationship between our countries. In particular I refer to agriculture, agro-industry, ICT, infrastructures, tourism, renewable energy, and many more. ITAZERCOM is ready to respond, as we have members from different sectors of interest ranging, for example, from medium-heavy steel structural work with leading name MAEG Costruzioni s.p.a. from Treviso, to innovative super-thin ceramic material by Laminam spa from Modena, to the luxury industry with Carlo Eleuteri’s high-end antique jewels from Rome, Milan, Florence, Venice, Cortina and Porto Cervo. 

AT: Many foreign businessmen are not happy with taxes and duty fees in our country and they say they are still too high. We would like to know your opinion on this issue. 

As a business organization we like taxes and duty fees to be as low as possible. Particularly, duty fees are an impediment to develop efficient and free trade and seldom achieve their stated aim of protecting certain sectors. However, it not only is the headline fees which may be an obstacle to develop profitable business for both Azerbaijan and Italy, but it is the myriad of often outdated regulations. This issue was also discussed at the World Economic Forum held in Baku last April 9th in which I participated. One of the outcomes of our session dedicated to Trade and Supply Chain was that removing the so called “soft barriers” which hold back development in trade and supply may have greater impact on GDP than removing all of the tariffs. 

As a country, Italy’s “red tape” may be as cumbersome as Azerbaijan specific issues. As ITAZERCOM, we can try to assist our members dealing with these issues and lobby Government authorities in both countries to create a better environment and boost business opportunities.