Italy is seeking partnerships with the UAE sovereign wealth funds owned by the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, for joint investments in Africa and Asia. Also, the country is looking to expand trade and investment relations, according to Trade Commissioner Gianpaolo Bruno. With this tie up in place, the UAE startups will also be able to invest and acquire stakes in Italian firms.

“We would like to engage UAE sovereign wealth funds to be partners…in Africa to joint venture with them and to fund projects, as …Africa will be the next lion [big market] in economic terms,” he said. Bruno oversees the trade promotion in the UAE, Oman, and Pakistan.

Prime Minister of Italy Giuseppe Conte is in talks with the UAE investors and sovereign funds for potential investment opportunities in sectors including logistics, tourism , and technology-intensive industries, a regional media reports.

Bruno said that they are ‘engaging’ sovereign funds in an effort to explore possible partnerships. “We would like to see more investment flows from the UAE,” he added.

Italy is planning to establish at least two large-scale free zones in the southern part of the country. These zones will be adjacent to the ports, according to the media report.

Italian authorities are in talks with DP World, global ports and terminals operator, and Jebel Ali Free Zone Authority in Dubai. These efforts reflect on Italy’s objective to enter into partnerships for developing its proposed free zones.

Bruno explained that the response from the UAE counterparts has been ‘very good’ and that Italy could be their ‘gateway to access the important markets in Europe’.

“We reached maximum level of exports [to the UAE] in 2015, which was almost €6 billion, but given the economic situation and volatility in the market … our exports recorded a contraction,” he said. Against this background, he believes that if they can reach a CAGR of 5 percent it will be a good start. “It is highly strategic market for us and that is the reason why we are doubling our efforts to further develop our bilateral trade relations,” he concluded.