Can China’s E-commerce Platforms Save Italian Goods?

What Happened: On November 21, Pinduoduo launched the “Italian National Pavilion” wine-focued livestreaming sessions hosted in partnership with the Italian Foreign Trade Commission (ITA). 420,000 Pinduoduo users ensured the initiative was a great success. Over 20,000 wines and food specialities were sold during the event. Wine transactions, in particular, proved to be an enormous success: according to Pandaily, sales of Italian wine increased by 160 percent during the event. 

This deal preceded a similar partnership between Italy and Alibaba Group signed on November 23 in which the latter will “build a virtual store for Italian products.” The similarly titled, “Made in Italy Pavilion,” will serve as a virtual space for Italian exhibitors to showcase their products.

Jing Take: Italy and China have a long, collaborative history. “Italy and China share similarities in terms of culture, and wine and food are ways to share multiculturalism,” Gianpaolo Bruno, Chief Representative of the ITA in Beijing explained. In March 2019, the country was the first developed economy to join the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), signaling an intention to deepen economic ties with China. Considering Italy’s goods trade deficit has been growing, valued at $20.9 billion in 2019, coupled with a continued decrease in Italian exports which fell at 6.1 percent in 2019, this new approach to Beijing is hardly surprising. Italy needs China, and it understands that a vast market with 1.4 billion consumers represents a unique opportunity. 

President Xi Jinping’s latest call to Italy for mutually beneficial cooperation in various areas has shown that both countries are equipped to prioritize and establish major trade and investment programs. Pavilions featuring Italian goods on Chinese e-commerce platforms will promote trade between the two nations while boosting sales and revenues for Italian companies. Moreover, these initiatives will help to safeguard Italian food-based SMEs as well as financially perilled artisanal production methods due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the lack of consensus between Brussels and Washington D.C. on China, other European countries will likely commit to bilateral economic deals with Beijing in the future. Consequently, we should expect additional country pavilions on Chinese e-commerce platforms curated by national trade commissions.

The Jing Take reports on a piece of the leading news and presents our editorial team’s analysis of the key implications for the luxury industry. In the recurring column, we analyze everything from product drops and mergers to heated debate sprouting on Chinese social media.

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