(MENAFN - Arab News) The volume of Saudi exports to Italy increased by 120 percent whereas Italian exports to Saudi Arabia rose by 40 percent in 2011 compared to last year's figures, Italian Ambassador to Riyadh Valentino Simonetti said.
The Italian envoy, said the general trend is positive and reflects a mutual interest in trade between businessmen of the two countries.
He said deeply-rooted trade relations exist between the two countries which, he said, were demonstrated by a visit made by 120 Italian businessmen, headed by two ministers, to the Kingdom last November.
He said Italian Embassy in Riyadh and consulate in Jeddah issued nearly 30,000 visas in 2011 for Saudi businessmen and tourists, noting that the number of visas is steadily increasing. Since Italy is part of "Schengen" countries, a visa holder is entitled to enter 25 European countries, he said.
The Italian envoy said many of airlines are operating direct flights between the Kingdom and Italy as the case with Saudi Arabian Airlines (Saudia) flights to Rome and Milan whereas Italian Airlines will resume direct flights to the Kingdom this year.
On education area, the envoy said much work is needed to attract Saudi students to have their university education in Italy adding that the current number of students on scholarship basis is very small. This indicates that the Saudi Higher Education Ministry is depending on very small number of Italian universities for their students, he said. Italian universities began to develop methods to attract foreign students including adopting English as a medium of instruction on the belief that Italian language stands as barrier for foreign students.
On cooperation in the area of antiquities, the Italian envoy said a series of deals on joint excavation missions exist between the two countries. An Italian mission has been working in Domat Al-Jandal area for three years. Tourism and antiquities sector in the Kingdom is promising as it enjoys rich historic and archeological sites, he said. He expressed admiration over the roving "masterpieces of Saudi antiquities" museum hoping it will visit Italy.