An exhibition on the Belt and Road Initiative(BRI) kicked off Wednesday here, attracting exhibitors and visitors from across Italy and the rest of Europe to promote business ties with China.

The exhibition is the first such event after Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Italy in March 2019, when leaders of the two countries agreed to further enhance their bilateral relations, with Italy’s participation in the Belt and Road Initiative, Michele De Gasperis, president of Italy’s One Belt One Road Institute, said in a statement.

Scheduled six months after the first China International Import Expo (CIIE), the exhibition includes workshops focusing on the New Silk Road and tailor-made business-to-business events, De Gasperis said.

Italian companies could meet buyers interested in made-in-Italy products as well as venture capital representatives eager to select innovative projects and start-ups to be promoted in the Chinese and international markets, according to De Gasperis.

Carlo Capria, Italy’s former economic development undersecretary, said at the event that Italy’s institutions “must support the export-oriented businesses of our small and medium enterprises” and that the BRI is “the last call for Italy” because it entails “huge opportunities in many sectors”.

Relations between Italy and China have been growing for decades, long before the BRI, Riccardo Sessa, former Italian Ambassador to China, told participants at a presentation workshop of the exhibition.

“Now we need to get organised, decide which sectors to focus on, and face the market systematically,” he added.

On Wednesday, round tables were held on topics such as “Italy’s role in the Belt and Road” and “the Chinese digital ecosystem.”

In the next few days, speakers from think tanks, universities, business associations, and other institutions will address issues such as the future of Chinese investments in Europe, opportunities, and challenges of doing business in China, mergers, and acquisitions of Italian-Chinese companies and more.

The three-day exhibition, taking place at the Fiera di Roma trade fair venue, is organised with support from the China-Italy Chamber of Commerce and the Italy China Foundation.