Article: Rebound Industries for Euro Exports

Top 5: Italian Exports

Top 5: Italian Exports

Nov. 10, 2019

by Kevin Mataraci

Italy is famous for fashion and food, but what other exports contribute to this Mediterranean economy?

Two models on the catwalk wear a red tulle plunge-v neck asymetrical dress, paired with high-heeled shoes at a fashion show to present creations of designer Giambattista Valli and fast-fashion giant H&M in Rome, Italy October 24, 2019. REUTERS/Remo Casilli



Though generally better known for its high-quality fashion and fine cuisine, Italy exports a diverse array of products, with leather boots and Tuscan reds representing just a fraction of total export revenue.

Italy has one of the largest export markets not only in Europe but around the world.

Its tourism sector makes up a considerable portion of GDP, but many of its other industries have been developing for centuries and during this time have given the country a formidable manufacturing sector.

MIT's Observatory of Economic Complexity ranks Italy's export market at number seven worldwide, with a value of more than USD480 billion. The country exports more than 550 different products, which find their way all round the world, with Germany, France, and the US among the top export destinations.

Below are Italy's top five exports, categorized by sector and ranked by total export value.

1. Machinery

Machinery manufacturing in Italy has surged over the last decade, and the country's machine exports have much to do with its position as the seventh largest exporter in the world. This export market, worth more than USD120 billion in 2017, accounts for approximately 25% of all Italian exports.

Among the leaders in machine manufacturing in Italy are the Sacmi Group and Pietro Carnaghi, but a prevalence of SMEs building specialized parts means Italy has some 41,000 companies working in the sector.

The country produces everything from valves and refrigerators to centrifuges and forklifts.

2. Chemical products

In recent years, the share of chemical products has taken up a greater portion of Italy's export markets, largely due to the country's budding pharmaceutical industry.

Packaged medicines represent not only the largest chemical export in the country, at nearly two-fifths, but the largest of any type. In 2017, these pharmaceutical products accounted for approximately 4.5% of all Italy's exports, bringing in nearly USD22 billion.

Italy is Europe's third largest chemical producer, with more than 3,000 companies belonging to the sector and more than 172,000 employees. Italy's chemical industry has a healthy presence of local SMEs that focus mainly on niche or specialty products.

SMEs make up close to 40% of all production, the same as foreign companies present in the Italian market. Medium to large firms make up 24% of local production.

The pharmaceutical sector is Italy's only manufacturing industry that, as of 2017, had returned to pre-2008 financial crisis levels.

The country is also among worldwide leaders in R&D for the pharmaceutical sector, spending five times more than the global average.

3. Transportation

The transportation industrial segment accounted for 11% of all Italian exports in 2017, or a value of just over USD55 billion.

Dominant exports in this segment are cars, automotive products, and delivery trucks.

The country manufactures a significant number of passenger and cargo ships, aircraft parts, and planes.

Italian automotive brands are known throughout the world, and the industry is one of Italy's largest employers.

Following pharmaceutical products, cars represented the second most exported item in 2017 and accounted for one-third of the entire transportation segment.

While Alfa Romeo, Fiat, and Ferrari may be among the country's most well-known manufacturers, the entire industry consists of more than 5,700 companies.

4. Metal

Italy's metallurgical industry has been on a rebound since 2016, thanks to an increase in construction worldwide, as well as new EU import duties from China.

Despite the recent controversy surrounding Arcelor Mittal and the ILVA deal, Italy remains a top exporter of steel.

As the seventh largest steel exporter in the world, Italian steel production has risen by 3.4% in 1H2018, following a 2.9% increase in 2017, according to the World Steel Organization.

Steel exports overall have jumped 42% since 2009.

The steel industry dominates metals production in Italy, though aluminium and copper account for a decent share of exports as well. The industry is divided among a number of SMEs, with a few major players also active.

5. Textiles

Italian clothes are valued around the world, and textiles are Italy's fifth largest export. In 2017, the segment accounted for 6.3% of all exports, or just over USD30 billion. Suits, sweaters, coats, and shirts are among the country's most popular textile exports, but even products like tents, yarn, and silkworm cocoons support this strong export industry.

Italy's textile industry plays an important role in the fashion industry both locally and internationally.

While the industry has made some recovery since the 2008 financial crisis, it now battles the likes of other major textile manufactures, especially Turkey, for the export market.

The industry's trade surplus in 2017 was estimated to be worth EUR2.3 billion, equating to a positive surplus of over 25%.

While Italian textiles are exported around the world, Asian markets are rapidly on the rise, with exports to China and Hong Kong both increasing by 12.4% in 2017.

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