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Marcucci: “Silk Road in Africa, opportunities for Italy” / INTERVIEW

Concerns over the current slowdown in logistics sectors.

AFRICA IS the continent closest to Italy, but it’s often represented as a missed opportunity.

What could change following China’s announcement of funding for infrastructure and inclusion of the African continent in the Silk Road?

“The $60 billion slated for Africa, which is part of a one trillion dollar project, could,” says the chairman of Confetra, Nereo Marcucci, “radically influence the role played by the African continent in the context of China’s Belt and Road Initiative. With the support of think-tank SRM - Studi e Ricerche per il Mezzogiorno - we’ve recently set up an observatory in which Italian and European professionals and experts work together, to monitor the evolution of the project, and perhaps come up with some useful proposals for the Europe-China negotiation aimed at presenting our industry and our logistics with some opportunities, from those that will emerge from parts of Africa becoming routes of China’s virtual ‘conveyor belt’.”

Does the recent expansion of the Suez Canal constitute a growth opportunity for Italy’s port and maritime sphere?

”Analysis of data released by the Suez Canal Authority, an overall look at the countries that mostly use the Suez Canal for export and import, reveal that the total freight volume arriving and departing from Italian ports has remained substantially unchanged, with a slight increase (+ 0.9%), for the period 2016-2017. This trend counters that of the other countries bordering the Mediterranean basin (Egypt and Greece) that were analysed. In the same period, Spain, instead, recorded a decrease of -6.8%. Of note is a 14.8% increase recorded by the Netherlands, further proof that Italy’s “proximity” to the Mediterranean alone is not enough to attract a bigger share of traffic.”

Is a shipping rate-war likely to affect Italy’s trade?

“I hope there will be plenty of tact in the current confrontation between the big global players. Shipping rates should be seen as a means, not an end, if we want to rebalance the international division of labour in favour of the West, which has been exporting know-how but has reaped unemployment, low wages and in many cases low margins. If one envisions a radical turn one should keep in mind that most components of Germany’s industrial exports are produced in North-West Italy, that high quality exports have very high values (the air freight component accounts for 38% of value globally but it represents 2% in terms of volume, and it’s volume that creates employment), and that the rise of alternative markets is subject to many clashing interests.”

Italy has experienced a long period of economic slowdown and traffic decline. What is the current situation and the future prospects based on Confetra’s latest data on logistics and Italy’s transport industry?

“An analysis of some macro-indicators provided by ISTAT, such as the report on Services Revenue for the second quarter of 2018, reveals a slight slowdown in the ’Transportation and Warehousing’ sector caused by a drop in maritime traffic.”

The tragedy of the Morandi bridge has made even more evident Italy’s infrastructural deficiencies. What are the prospects for the future?

“Those infrastructural deficiencies were scheduled to be remedied. I hope we move forward with these. In the three weeks since the tragedy it’s clear that the Government does not consider it necessary to set up a crisis unit. I can surmise that it will be up to the Infrastructure and Transport Ministry (MIT) to address what are - among the many - the valid proposals to address the different consequences of “post-Morandi”, which certainly include the problem of the displaced families and of its reconstruction, as well as the best course of action to keep the port of Genoa afloat, in such a stormy time. The reconstruction of the bridge should be accompanied by the start of the construction of the Gronda bypass and further progress on of the Third Pass rail projects, all projects that are indispensable if we want to provide long-term growth to the manufacturing system of Italy’s North West. Our public assembly, scheduled for October 17th, will focus on the crucial issue of infrastructure; during the event we’ll present a well-reasoned Position Paper titled “Check-up log: strategic infrastructures for transport and logistics”. In the Agora space we’ll hold a debate between businesses and public servants. And we’ll have the privilege of a summing-up statement from MIT Minister Toninelli.”

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