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Non-UE exports soaring by 19.7% in January, Russian buyers are coming back

by Giovanna Mancini

There hasn’t been a similar increase in Italian exports to non-EU markets since 2011. And even though ISTAT pointed out that certain extraordinary factors influenced January 2017’s numbers, the fact remains that a 19.7% spike in non-European Made in Italy sales (in comparison with the same month in 2016) is an excellent result for the Italian industry. This makes it three consecutive monthly growths (+2.8%, in comparison with December), inspiring the hope that Italy has bucked the long, negative phase that characterized foreign non-EU trade in 2016.

A year that, in spite of the recovery over the last two months, ended in the red (-1.2%) for overseas exports. As the National Institute of Statistics (ISTAT) explains, January’s tendential surge was partly conditioned by the low sales levels that characterized January 2016, as well as the heightened value of certain important orders that were finalized last month. Nevertheless, it’s an increase of nearly 20%, which consolidates and relaunches the “reawakening” of non-European foreign trade (a trend that began during the last few months of 2016).

And even when taking into consideration the difference between the number of working days (there are more this year), growth on an annual basis is still high, at +16.6%.

And that’s not all: last month’s data mark the decisive return of Russia, a fundamental market for Italian manufacturing businesses, which had been in free fall for almost three years (-38%, from 2013 to 2016). Exports to Moscow grew in January (on an annual basis) by 39.4%, boosting the hopes of a turnaround that had been inspired by a 9.2% growth in December.

Another confirmation of the BRIC countries’ possible turnaround (beginning in December) comes from South America—particularly the Brazilian colossus, which had long been considered a new “El Dorado” for Made in Italy products, but has suffered from a recession for several years: January showed a 23.1% increase in sales to the Mercosur area, adding to the +19.9% that ISTAT registered in December.

Staying in the BRIC area, China still hasn’t dropped its pace: the value of Italian companies’ exports to China grew by 36.6% last month, in comparison with January of last year. This growth is decisive, and has spread throughout all of Italy’s principal non-EU markets: from Southeast Asia (ASEAN), which is up +57%, to the United States (+35.8%), to Japan (+29%).

Just as the growth has spread throughout all the markets, January’s increase in exports involves (in both monthly and annual comparisons) all of the principal industrial sectors, with the exception of durable consumer goods. Particularly-noteworthy standouts include the energy sector and capital goods.