In the next few weeks, the U.S. President Donald Trump and the Chinese President Xi Jinping could reach a definitive trade agreement. Italy could also find itself in a position to play some kind of bridging role betweeen Beijing and Washington. On March 22, 2019, the President of the Italian Republic Sergio Mattarella met his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, in Rome. On behalf of their respective countries, the two Presidents signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), giving Italy an important role in the so-called New Silk Road (the Belt and Road Initiative, BRI), China’s massive trans-continental infrastructure project. Italy is the first G7 Member State and the fifth EU country after Poland, Hungary, Greece and Portugal to join the Eurasiatic strategic plan.
On April 1, 2017, the Italian financial and economic newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore pubblished an article entitled “L’identità manifatturiera nella risposta europea” [Manufacturing identity in the European response]. The author, economist Paolo Bricco, wrote that the balance structure of the long-standing international capitalism had been experiencing an equally deep reconfiguration. In particular:
1. According to UNCTAD data, in 1991, 36% of global manufacturing added value, the difference between revenues and total expenditures after labor costs, was produced in Europe with 24% in North America. In 2017, after 10 years of crisis, these rates fell to 25% and 22% respectively;
2. Since 2000, the United States of America has lost 27% of its jobs in the manufacturing sector (approximately, 6,000,000 employees), Italy 12% and Germany 8%;
3. Based on the Scenari Industriali report published by the Italian Manufacturers’ Association in November 2017, the share of China’s manufacturing production over the global manufacturing sector increased from 5% in 1995 to 8% in 2000, 19% in 2010, 22% in 2012, and 29.5% in 2017. At the same time, the U.S.’s manufacturing production share over the global manufacturing sector decreased to 19%, Germany’s share fell to 5.9%, Italy’s to 2.3% (seventh in the world) and Russia’s to 1.2% (fifteenth in the world due to the economic recession that hit the country in 2014-16). The first 2018 estimates show that China’s percentage rose to 32%, while Germany’s share decreased below 5%, with Italy maintaining its previous position in the global ranking.
It is important to highlight that the new geographical redistribution of the global manufacturing sector was accompanied by an increase in the 2017 world natural gas consumptions of 96 Gm3 (+3% y-o-y), the greatest increase since 2010, driven by industrial activity more than by power generation, as had happened in the previous decade.