Italy to set up virtual pavilion on Alibaba e-commerce platform

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A logo of Alibaba Group is seen during the World Internet Conference (WIC) in Wuzhen

By Angelo Amante

ROME (Reuters) – Italy on Monday signed a partnership with Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba (NYSE:) Group to build a virtual store for Italian products, in a move aimed at boosting business-to-business (B2B) exports amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The “Made in Italy Pavilion” will serve as a permanent online exhibition where Italian companies will be able to show their products and catalogues to buyers all around the world.

The project will initially target some 300 Italian companies, Italy’s trade agency said in a statement, with a focus on small and medium-sized enterprises in the food and beverage, clothes and design, and industrial technology sectors.

SMEs are the backbone of the Italian economy, with some 5.3 million companies employing over 15 million people, a Prometeia research centre study shows.

“I am confident our companies will not only be up to the task but will realise this was a necessary and easy step to take,” Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said on the online presentation of the initiative.

In September Italy saw its exports grow by 2.1% year-on-year, national statistics bureau Istat said, fuelling hopes that foreign trade could revive an economy expected to contract by at least 9% this year due to the coronavirus.

Alibaba, which does business in some 190 countries, saw sales for its November post-COVID-19 “Singles’ Day” shopping extravaganza hit 74 billion dollars, making it the world’s biggest sales event.

“The pandemic has taught us that we need to speed up the process of digitalization… to sell Positano sandals, Sicilian ceramics and grappa from Friuli everywhere,” said Rodrigo Cipriani Foresio, Alibaba group’s southern Europe general manager.

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