Import regulations and customs duties
Since the first of January 1993, the European Union, of which Italy is part, has been a single market, without any customs barriers, which ensures free circulation of goods. On May, 1st of 2004, ten "candidate countries" became new members of the European Union: Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, the Slovak Republic, and Slovenia. Trade within the European Union is totally free from customs duties, provided that the country of origin of the goods is one of the 25 European Union Member States. Nevertheless, when introducing merchandises into Italy, exporters shall fill in an intrastat declaration.
When the country of origin of the merchandises which are exported to Italy is not part of the European Union, customs duties are calculated Ad valorem on the CIF value of the goods, in accordance with the Common Customs Tariff (CCT).
The duties for non-European countries are relatively low, especially for manufactured goods (4.2% on average for the general rate), however textile, clothing items (high duties and quota system) and food-processing industry sectors (average duties of a 17.3% and numerous tariff quotas, PAC) still know protective measures.
In order to get exhaustive regulations and customs tariffs rates regarding their products, exporters shall refer to the TARIC code and its database, which includes all applicable customs duties and all customs trade policy measures for all the goods.
Moreover, many bilateral and multilateral agreements have been signed by the European Union, in order to define specific customs duties with the following countries:
- Customs agreements with Australia, Canada, United States, Mexico and South Korea.
- The EU-EFTA (European Free Trade Association) Agreement that was signed in 1972 with Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.
- Free trade agreements with Bulgaria and Romania that hope joining the European Union in 2007.
- Mediterranean Agreements, concerning: Turkey, Israel, Jordan, Morocco, Palestinian Authority, Tunisia, Egypt, Lebanon and Syria.
- The ACP agreements, with 95% of the tariff lines with a 0% rate developing countries in Africa, the Caribbean Islands and Pacific. The Cotonou Agreement, signed in year 2000, defines the new EU-ACP partnership.
- The Generalised System of Preferences (GSP): 54% of the tariff lines at 0% for developing countries outside the ACP framework.
To get an exhaustive list of the foreign trade agreements of the European Union, click here.
>> To get further information on customs policies in the European Union, please check the exhaustive report by the European Commission.
Excise duties are also levied on certain products, especially on spirit.
>> To get further information on VAT rates in Italy, please check the list of VAT rates applied within the European Union, as well as the Ministry of Finances website.
>> More detailed information on excise duties is available concerning alcoholic beverages, tobacco products, energy products on the European Commission website.
In the past, Italian industries were not very competitive, which forced the Italian government to create entry barriers. However, since becoming part of the common market of the European Union, various sectors have been liberalised resulting in numerous new opportunities within the distribution sector. In 2004, retail business in Italy was valued at 328.5 billion euros, a growth of 1.2% compared to 2003.
The Business to Consumer (B to C) market
By tradition, Italians are faithful to neighbourhood stores. Modern distribution networks developed only a few years ago with the rapid development of international groups like Auchan/Rinascente and Carrefour. These groups benefited from the fact that the law governing the entry of such groups into this market was relaxed due to pressure from the European Union. The number one distribution group is Coop Italia with a network of more than 1,000 retail outlets in the country and enjoyed a 17.7% market-share in 2004. Carrefour Italia had 10% of the market-share and Auchan/Rinascente had 9.5%.
Generally speaking, foreign brands accounted for 47% of all hypermarkets in 2003. In 2004 the mass market was made up of 469 hypermarkets, 990 supermarkets and 6627 small supermarkets. The food distribution market is very consolidated since the ten largest groups controlled 77% of the market-share.
However, there is a large regional disparity in this sector as the northern part of the country accounts for more than 50% of all supermarkets and 65% of all hypermarkets. Accordingly, the large groups are now concentrating on the Southern part of the country which presents more growth opportunities.
The Business to Business (B to B) market
Transportation of goods
Patents and brands
The Italian Patent and Trademark Office is the official organisation in charge of protecting the intellectual property in Italy.