The Geographical Indications Agreement, signed last November by EU Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan and Chinese Trade Minister Zhong Shan, is the first major bilateral trade agreement that will protect the 100 geographical indications of each side, including 26 Italian products. Italy has a great commercial tradition. Deep in the Mediterranean, the country is positioned and strengthens its commercial potential not only with Eastern Europe, but also with North Africa and the Middle East. In the past, Italy has had active relations with Eastern European countries, Libya and the Palestinian peoples. These ties were preserved even during periods of great political tension, such as during the Cold War and the Persian Gulf War in 1991. Membership of the EEC from 1957 further increased Italy`s trade potential, which led to rapid economic growth. However, from that date on, the economy was faced with an increasing trade deficit. Between 1985 and 1989, the United States was the only trading partner for which Italy had no deficit. Italy again posted a positive balance sheet in the mid-1990s.
Trade with other EU Member States accounts for more than half of Italy`s transactions. Other important trading partners are the United States, Russia, China and members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). After the Second World War, membership of the EEC was the most advantageous economic factor in Italian trade. The subsequent accession of Greece, Spain and Portugal to the EEC has led to fierce competition for Mediterranean agricultural products, particularly fruit, wine and table oil. However, at the beginning of the 21st century, the enlargement of the EU and the weakness of the new euro currency enabled the growth of exports to Italy. When the euro reached parity with the U.S. dollar and eventually surpassed it, this advantage was lost and, in the first decade of the 21st century, Italy maintained a negative trade balance. The EU-Japan trade agreement will make it easier and cheaper for them to do so.