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In 2020, Italy and China celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of the beginning of their diplomatic and trade relations. The Dragon represents a very interesting market for our country, not only for its dense population but also because Chinese consumers’ interest in Made in Italy and in Italian culture is getting stronger.

As regards the agri- food sector, already in 2004, these two countries signed the Memorandum relating to animal quarantine and food safety between the Italian Ministry of Health and the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine of the PRC. The goal was to strengthen cooperation between Italy and China in particular under the aforementioned Agreement on the Application of the Sanitary and Phytosanitary Regulations of the World Trade Organization (WTO/SPS Agreement). According to what emerges from the Memorandum, the parties are committed to having a transparent dialogue and to transmit to the other all necessary information regarding laws, regulations, rules, procedures and technical information that has to do with the inspection and quarantine of animals, but also with related products and food safety.

Moreover, the agreement establishes that there must be an exchange of information on international organizations linked to the SPS such as the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) and the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC), and an exchange of positions and opinions on related issues. Italy and China also undertake to guarantee to the other party all information regarding the quarantine and inspection of animals and products of animal origin, issues relating to food safety and corresponding measures that may have an impact on international trade.39 In case it is necessary to solve issues of common interest, the two parties will be able to meet bilaterally. In particular, some meetings may be organized and may require the participation of experts, especially if problems have a scientific value. We can therefore say that this Memorandum aims to safeguard trade through compliance with safety, sanitation and health and environmental protection protocols.

Ten years later, in 2014, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and the Minister of Economic Development Federica Guidi signed with the Chinese Prime Minister Li

39Memorandum on the Animal Quarantine, available on:

http://www.salastampa.salute.gov.it/portale/temi/documenti/sicurezzaAlimentare/documenti/attivit a/Memorandum.pdf (last accessed 27/6/2021)


Keqiang and the Minister of Commerce Gao Hucheng, important agreements with the aim of strengthening Italian exports on five priority sectors of collaboration: urbanization, environment, health, aeronautics and agri- food safety. Moreover, on that occasion it was established the so called Italy/China Business Forum, which represents a cooperation platform to overcome asymmetries in the relationship of the two countries.

This forum is incredibly important also for Italian and Chinese entrepreneurs as it is supported by both governments and it is intended to increase the exchange of information, industrial proposal but also reciprocal investments. We should also underline that the visit of Matteo Renzi played an important role for what concerns China’s participation at Expo2015. As reported by one of the most important Chinese media, this event was an opportunity not only to focus on the cooperation on the aforementioned sectors, but also to promote various forms of cultural exchange activities, to expand local and non- governmental exchanges and tourism cooperation, and to strengthen communication and coordination on major international issues and to promote world peace and development.40 Relations between Italy and China have seen a notable development, particularly since 2015, when Italy, as well as other EU countries, declared its intention to join the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB)41, becoming one of its founding countries. The goal of the Italian government was to be among the main beneficiaries of the Belt & Road Initiative (BRI), an economic and diplomatic initiative launched in 2013 by the current President of the PRC, Xi Jinping. The initiative involves the construction of two main trade routes, as well as the development of six economic corridors. The participation of I taly has proved beneficial not only for many of the national companies that operate or undertake exchanges with China, but also for Made in Italy.

In 2016 two agreements with the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ) 42 of the People's Republic of China were signed by

40人民日报, Xíjìnpíng huìjiàn yìdàlì zǒnglǐ lún qí习近平会见意大利总理伦齐 (Xi Jinping Meets with Italian Prime Minister Renzi), 12/06/2014 available on:

http://cpc.people.com.cn/n/2014/0612/c64094-25136794.html (last accessed 28/06/2021)

41 The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), founded in Beijing in 2014, is an international financial institution proposed by the PRC, whose main purpose is to develop the facilities.

42This was the main Chinese institution in charge of quality control and compliance of agri-food products entering the Chinese territory. However, in 2018 China has established a State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR),which has undertaken all the responsibilities of the


the Minister of Health Beatrice Lorenzin on behalf of Mipaaf. The first agreement is particularly relevant for the opening of the Chinese market towards the Italian citrus sector, for which a new protocol has been signed regarding the phytosanitary requirements for the export of Italian citrus fruits to China. The second agreement concerns a Memorandum of Understanding for the quality of olive oil, laying the foundations for cooperation between Mipaaf and AQSIQ in quality controls, as well as an agreement for the tra ining of Chinese technicians. The fact that this type of agreements was reached following the 2015 Expo Milano fair should make us think. In fact, for the agri- food sector, fairs of this type play a key role, not only to expand the Made in Italy market abroad, but also to get closer to consumers and facilitate the stipulation of useful contracts for trade.

The following year, the President of the Italian Republic Sergio Mattarella and the Undersecretary Ivan Scalfarotto went to China, where they signed 13 bilateral agreements43, with the aim of increasing economic but also cultural exchanges. This state visit allowed the stipulation during the same year of the Memorandum of Understanding between the Ministry of Health of the Italian Republic and the State Administration for Market Regulation of the People's Republic of China on collaboration in the field of food safety. It is a non-binding Memorandum but it establishes the collaboration of the two parties for:

a. The development and the application of food safety legislation based on the principles of risk analysis;

b. The organization and the implementation of coordination and the application of official control procedures on food safety concerning production, distribution and consumption process;

c. Food safety legislation in the respective countries;

d. Other topics of common interest.

General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ), and of other governmental bodies.

43These agreements are available on:

https://ambpechino.esteri.it/ambasciata_pechino/resource/doc/2017/02/agreements.pdf (last accessed 27/06/2021)


The two parties will therefore share information regarding regulatory developments in the food sector and inspection practices, which are considered to be important for food safety and fair business relations.44

A turning point in Sino-Italian relations came in 2018, when the yellow- green government headed by Giuseppe Conte announced the creation of the China Task Force coordinated by the Undersecretary of the Ministry of Economic Development Michele Geraci. The new China Task Force aims to strengthen relations with the Dragon in the commercial, financial, investment and R&D fields, creating dialogue and greater cooperation. In the same year, thanks to the development of relations between the two countries and the agreement signed between ICE and Alibaba45, there was an increase in exports, which reached the value of 439 million of euro.46

Finally, in March 2019, Italy and China signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in which our country declared itself ready to formally join the BRI. The document included twenty-nine agreements, of which ten were commercial and nineteen were institutional.

Among these agreeements we find the protocol between the Ministry of Health of the Italian Republic and the General Administration of Customs of the People's Republic of China regarding inspection, quarantine and veterinary health requirements for the export of frozen pork from Italy to China. Despite the cooperation, protection and promotion agreements of various sectors, exporting agri- food products to China is anything but simple; in addition to the European standards, Italian companies must strictly submit registration practices, additional documents and certificates to ensure product’s healthiness, in order to be admitted to the Chinese market.