What Can We Learn From Bilateral Trade Relations?

What Can We Learn From Bilateral Trade Relations?

November 8, 2023

Bilateral trade relations often provide insights into the economic interdependence, comparative advantage, policy implications, and the broader impact of trade on two economies and societies. Analyzing these relations can ultimately contribute to a better understanding of the major trends in the global economy.

A conversation with Dante Brandi, Ambassador of Italy to Singapore and Brunei and Ilaria Piccinni, Deputy Trade Commissioner of the Italian Trade Agency Singapore ahead of the 4th edition of the Global Startup Program, which was organized by the Italian Trade Agency (ITA) in collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, provided some insights into the efforts taken to continuously expand bilateral relations between Italy and Singapore. 

How is Singapore viewed as a gateway for Italian businesses to access the broader ASEAN market, and what strategies are in place to leverage this potential?

Commissioner Piccinni: The Embassy of Italy in Singapore and the Italian Trade Agency recognize Singapore’s pivotal role as a gateway for Italian businesses to access the broader ASEAN market, given its significance in global trade. Singapore, with €2.43 billion in exports to the ASEAN region, has established itself as a key trading partner. The ASEAN region itself represents a vast market of 662 million people and recorded an outstanding €9.27 billion in total trade in 2022, demonstrating the immense trade potential.

To harness this potential, Italian businesses can adopt various strategies, such as establishing partnerships with local Singapore businesses, understanding regional regulations, and leveraging the global trade policies of Italian enterprises. The Italian Embassy, in collaboration with the Italian Trade Agency, works closely with Italian businesses to facilitate these strategies, fostering trade and economic growth in the region.

How do you see the role of the Italian Trade Agency in promoting Italian businesses and products in Singapore, particularly in the identified strategic sectors?

Commissioner Piccinni: The Italian Trade Agency plays a pivotal institutional role in promoting Italian businesses and products in Singapore in all sectors, especially in the strategic ones like Fintech, Healthtech, Blockchain, Health & Fitness, Sustainability, and HRtech. This role is further validated by the significant trade figures. For instance, with €2.43 billion in exports to Singapore, Italian products have already made their mark in the market.

The Italian Trade Agency provides assistance to companies through a vast range of services like market analysis, research of partner and clients, organization of trade promotion events and facilitation of business matching, with local partners. These efforts align with the growing trade opportunities, both in Singapore and the broader ASEAN region, which recorded a 17.3% growth in bilateral trade with Italy in 2022. Our institutional support plays a vital role in advancing the interests of Italian companies, and it is crucial especially when small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) seek to expand into distant markets such as the Southeast Asia region.

How can small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) from both countries benefit from the expansion of trade relations, and what support mechanisms are available for them?

Ambassador Brandi: The expansion of trade relations between Italy and Singapore offers significant benefits to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) from both countries. Cross-border trade creates opportunities for SMEs to access new markets, expand their customer base, and enhance their growth prospects. Collaboration and resource-sharing in international contexts can bolster their competitive advantages. This trade expansion creates a conducive environment for SMEs to thrive.

Some of the institutional mechanisms we’ve employed to support SMEs include financial incentives, market entry assistance, and export promotion programs offered by governments. SMEs can also tap into networking events such as our upcoming Global Startup Program with accelerator Tenity, and knowledge exchange opportunities. Such an institutional support system helps the Italian SMEs navigate the complexities of international trade and leverage the growing trade relations effectively.

Are there plans for joint research and development initiatives, technology transfer, or innovation collaborations in the strategic areas between Italian and Singaporean businesses?

Ambassador Brandi: Yes, there are plans in place for joint research and development initiatives, technology transfer, and innovation collaborations between Italian and Singaporean businesses. One such initiative is the Global Startup Program, which provides startups in their incubation phase with opportunities to enhance their technical, organizational, and financial capabilities to tackle global challenges.

The Global Startup Program provides an opportunity for startups within their incubation process to bolster their technical, organizational and financial prowess to face global challenges. It also provides a platform for Italian and Singaporean businesses to explore ways to work together aimed at developing innovative products or solutions. This is also an opportune moment for exchange of technology and intellectual property to take place, which might involve licensing agreements, joint ventures, or technology-sharing agreements.

We are also exploring partnerships with research institutions and universities to drive innovation in the younger generation, hoping to drive breakthroughs in areas such as fintech, healthtech, and sustainability. These institutional efforts, coupled with government support and infrastructure, aim to enhance the competitive edge of businesses in the market and meet the demands of global consumers.

What is the role of Italy’s diplomatic and consular missions in Singapore in supporting trade expansion, and how do they work in coordination with the Italian Trade Agency?

Ambassador Brandi: Italy’s diplomatic and consular missions in Singapore play a significant role in supporting trade expansion by promoting diplomatic relations and fostering international collaborations, especially in the fintech sector.

In my role, the embassy helps facilitate dialogue, negotiate agreements, and create an environment conducive to cross-border fintech partnerships. Working in close coordination with the Italian Trade Agency, these missions leverage on our diplomatic networks and expertise to address regulatory challenges, promote cooperation, and ultimately support the expansion and stability of the fintech sector. This has resulted in a more inclusive growth, especially in emerging countries with less developed banking systems. Reducing financial costs for SMEs and retail consumers through fintech evolution is strategically aimed at achieving sustainable economic growth.

The Global Startup Program featured the following startups during the November 7th event.

Brain & Fitness Italy s.r.l
Representative: Anna Milani, Founder & CEO
Startup Stage: Pre-seed Business Model: B2B2C
Company Description: SPARKD BOX is the Cognitive Motor Training Solution to enhance Brain Body Performance. SPARKD BOX can be deployed into any existing facilities including Seniors homes, assisted living and seniors community centres to enhance and complement existing wellness programs.
Objective: Brain & Fitness is interested in investor research, and for corporate clients such as companies interested in offering Brain Body fitness to their workers, hotels, luxury elderly care homes. We are interested in Singapore due to its importance in the Southeast Asian market.

Carchain s.r.l
Representative: Lisandro Espindola, Founder & CEO
Startup Stage: Commercialization Business Model: B2B, B2C, B2B2C
Company Description: Carchain empowers car owners and businesses to establish immutable vehicle records using dynamic NFTs on the blockchain. Our platform covers everything from tracking CO2 emissions and offsetting them, allowing both current and future owners to construct a secure and transparent history of a vehicle’s data, integrity, and lifespan. This information is captured within a digital ID that can be easily shared, sold, or transferred, ushering in a new era of trust and accountability in the automotive industry.
Objective The Singapore market offers a strategic entry point into Asia’s tech landscape, renowned for innovation and a supportive ecosystem. With a focus on sustainable mobility, Singapore aligns with our vision. Additionally, governmental support and vibrant investor interest provide a conducive environment for scaling our blockchain-based automotive solutions and forming vital regional partnerships.

Coffeefrom s.r.l
Representative: Laura Gallo, CEO & Co-Founder, and Rita Bonucchi, Co-Founder & International Development Advisor
Startup Stage: Seed Business Model: B2B
Company Description: Coffeefrom is a startup that transforms spent coffee grounds from the food industry into innovative and sustainable new thermoplastic materials. Coffeefrom currently offers three different materials, each with different characteristics and endless applications.
Objective: Coffeefrom is interested in finding investors, creating a network with possible clients and distributing on Singapore’s market.

Fairtile s.r.l
Representative: Antonio Labate, Co-Founder & Chief Legal Officer, and Guido Ferrari, Co-Founder & Chief Financial Officer
Startup Stage: Commercialization Business Model: B2B, B2B2C
Company Description: “The Credit Intelligence and Automation Platform”. At FAIRTILE, we are a financial technology company that develops a modern hybrid multi-cloud platform for Credit Intelligence and Automation solutions. We leverage Big Data, Human Science and AI to unleash real-time intelligence and automation, at scale.
Objective: FAIRTILE is interested in growing our operations in Southeast Asia, looking for new Customers, Partners and Investors.

Hacking Talents SRL SB
Representative: Federica Pasini, CEO
Startup Stage: Commercialization Business Model: B2B
Company Description: Hacking Talents is the digital solution that develops behavioral and communication skills in organizations through standard processes that allow each individual to work on their talents. We make the entire organization more sustainable and competitive within its market.
Objective: Hacking Talents is looking forward to tapping into the vibrant market of Singapore as it is global business hub renowned for its digital and international appeal. We think that Singapore’s dynamic ecosystem provides an ideal playground for testing our value proposition, with its robust infrastructure, pro-business policies, and a strategic geographical location. Moreover, the presence of numerous international corporate offices further enhances our interest, offering valuable opportunities for collaboration, partnerships, and market expansion. We aim to leverage this advantageous environment to propel our startup’s growth, establish a strong foothold, and engage with a diverse clientele. Singapore’s thriving ecosystem aligns perfectly with our aspirations for innovation and success.

iWise s.r.l
Representative: Donato De leso, Chief Technical Officer (CTO)
Startup Stage: Commercialization Business Model: B2B
Company Description: iWise is an innovative company founded in 2020 by experts in the field of investments in private capital: Startups and SME. The company develops and markets software for business assessment and investment monitoring.
Objective: In Singapore there is a high concentration of Startups, SME and investors. Private capital market has always had a problem of data and information. We want to approach the Asian private capital market giving an instrument to both investors and companies. We can offer Software-as-a Service (SaaS) to startups and SMEs to give a correct company evaluation and monitor investors & company’s result. At the same time iWise can collect data to create accurate analysis of the market and its metrics.

Sensosan Sell s.r.l
Representative: Bernald Leone, Founder & CEO
Startup Stage: Seed Business Model: B2B
Company Description: Augmented Air Platform for indoor environments to impact neurophysic health & wellbeing with a natural way: breathing.
Objective: Sensosan is looking for VC Investors in Singapore, including Family Offices (CVC). We are also looking for partnership with Hotels, Enterprises/Financial Institutions, Retail Stores, and Health Facilities that have an impact for Corporate Wellbeing & engagement of their customers/guests.

Wibiocard s.r.l
Representative: Imad El Kurdi, Founder & CEO
Startup Stage: Pre-commercialization Business Model: B2B, B2B2C
Company Description: Wibiocard is a leading specializing in cutting-edge smart card technology integrated with biometric fingerprint recognition. We deliver state-of-the-art solutions that provide secure access control, streamlined identification, and exceptional user experiences.
Objective: Wibiocard seeks investors in Singapore, as the city state is a pioneer on crypto wallet, identification and innovative technology, related to supplier chain and Fareast countries.

Ed.  Article photo by Unsplash+.


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