Coronavirus spread in Italy may shortcut trade with China
Published: Feb 26, 2020 09:33 PM

Tourists wearing masks are seen in Venice, Italy, on February 23, 2020. Photo: Xinhua

The novel coronavirus which is spreading in Italy, may deliver a short-term blow to the bilateral trade with China, which experienced steady and growing momentum over the past year, industry insiders said.

Cui Hongjian, director of EU Studies at the China Institute of International Studies, told the Global Times on Wednesday that trade exchanges are set to be battered due to restricted personnel flows and transportation lockdowns.

"With closer trade ties following the signing of a memorandum of understanding on the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), firms and industries from both sides would feel the pain," Cui added.

Key products traded between the two countries include mechanical and electrical products, textiles and chemical products. China is a leading import source of the European country's textiles and raw materials, furniture, toys, footwear, umbrellas and other light industrial products.

"Our concerns come from the epidemic situation in both countries," Zhao Xiaodong, the general manager and executive director of Orient International Holding Shanghai Knitwear Import and Export Co, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

The Shanghai-based company mainly exports clothes to Italy and imports some luxury products from Italy, and its trade with Italy has been steady over the past years.

Zhao said as the virus is spreading in Italy's northern regions, which include key economic zones such as Milan, one of the world's most important fashion capitals, the impact could be huge.

Italy has put several cities and towns on lockdown, suspended public events and shut attractions including museums to the public, according to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control. The measures have put an estimated 100,000 people under quarantine, according to a CNN report.

"We are also worried that a further lockdown in the country would disrupt Italy's manufacturing industry, and might dampen demand, shortcutting our imports and exports to the country," Zhao explained.

Industry players also worried that the epidemic would disrupt the global luxury production and textile industry chains if the virus could not be contained as soon as possible.

Zhao said due to delayed work resumption, the whole textile industry chain is still waiting to recover in China, and he expected a full recovery could be a month away, which may cause a further delay of production and supply.

"But our factory in Bangladesh is running totally normally, which could alleviate some of our burdens," Zhao said.

Cui advised that the most urgent thing for Italy and China is to discard prejudice, strengthen cooperation in virus control, and manage to tide over interim difficulties. Cui expressed his confidence in the bilateral trade relationship, as the "China-Italy trade has resilience and long-term planning that will not be altered by the short-term impact."