(August 2013) July 2013 saw the start of negotiations for a Transatlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA, also: Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, TTIP) between the European Union and the USA. There had been previous attempts however without tangible results. Yet this new initiative may have better chances, as a free trade zone might be a way to revitalize the weakening economies both in the EU and in the US. Peter Becker from Stone-Ideas.com asked Dr. Stefano Ghirardi (*) from Confindustria Marmomacchine what TAFTA could mean for the stone sector.
Stone-Ideas.com: Would a Transatlantic Free Trade Agreement be of great importance for European stone companies?
Stefano Ghirardi: It would have some positive effects, but no big impact, as the trade between both markets has a long tradition and business relations are strong. E.g. the import duty for European stone products brought to the US is now 4 % – with TAFTA and without this duty, prices for US customers would not decrease significantly. Much more important for our business with the US is the general situation of the economy there.
Stone-Ideas.com: Might Italian companies open processing plants in the US as firms of the Ceramic industry have done in the last decade?
Stefano Ghirardi: Such ideas are not on the agenda of many companies. Yet in the past years, some Italian firms have bought quarries in the US and are now exporting blocks to be processed elsewhere.
Stone-Ideas.com: And vice-versa: Might US-companies try to sell their stone in Europe?
Stefano Ghirardi: As free trade means free trade for all, I would be glad if they would do so. Yet also for US exporters TAFTA wouldn’t really change the situation.
Stone-Ideas.com: How important is the US market for the Italian stone industry?
Stefano Ghirardi: In 2012, Italian companies sold stone products, machinery and related items to the US valuing a total of 335,7 million €. That was an increase of 22,2 % compared to the year before. The USA was the number one market for our stone producers and the number five for machinery firms. As American customers have high quality expectations and want confidence in their supplier, Italian companies are performing very well in the US.
(*) Dr. Stefano Ghirardi was president of Euroroc, the umbrella organization of the National Stone Associations in Europe. He is one of the Executive vice-presidents of the Italian Confindustria Marmomacchine and owner and CEO of Ghirardi Stone Contactors, a 75-year-old company internationally known for exclusive stone products, based in Carpenedolo, Brescia.
(07.08.2013) (USA: 08.07.2013)