Trista di Genova’s interview in the China Post with Leopoldo Sposato, Italian Trade Director, January 2009
Trista: What was your background, prior experience, experience with Taiwan and Asia before you took office?
Before arriving in the wonderful island of Taiwan, I have been the Director of the Italian Trade Commission in Houston for three years, from 2005 to 2008.
In 1981 I started working for ICE, acronym for Italian Institute for Foreign Trade, a public agency which nowadays has more than 110 branches throughout the world promoting Italian “ability and intelligence” on the global market, creating agreements and trades with all the countries of the world.
During my career, I’ve had other very significant experiences in foreign countries, along with Houston, such as Mumbai (India) and Tripoli (Libya).
It’s the first time I have come to Taiwan, even if I’ve been traveling a lot in the Asia area: Japan many times, Philippines, Indonesia, Honk Kong, and China, including Shenzhen, Shanghai, Beijing, and Canton.
However I’ve come across many Taiwanese companies and representatives while working at ICE headquarters in Rome, related to many different promotion sectors: Food Industry, Chemistry, Petrol equipment, and recently also ICT and Biotechnology.
When did you take office?
I officially took office in Taipei on 8/8/08, a very lucky day, also corresponding with the opening of the Beijing Olympics. Here I found a very comforting and positive atmosphere and climate, even though the weather wasn’t the best at that time.
What were your first impressions of Taiwan; and favorite foods, places to eat here?
As first impression of my arrival, I realized certainly being in Asia – a Chinese speaking country – but Taiwan was not like the China I used to know and the other Asian countries I used to travel to.
For this reason, I have to work hard to take advantage of this occasion, to know this reality better and deeper.
I have also discovered with great pleasure an amazing quality of cuisine, not only local but from many countries around the world. (Confidence received from many of my friends who have already been in Taiwan).
I enjoy eating and trying new things, but I found out that I have a strong attraction to dumplings, especially the handmade ones that are very tasty, delicate, and with many distinct flavors.
After my arrival I also realized that you can find good food everywhere and of many varieties, not only in luxurious restaurants.
I also found very good Italian cuisine, especially in the restaurants where the cooks are from Italy or have been for long time in Italy.
What did you bring in your suitcase, as gifts from your country?
In my suitcase I brought two things: a Neapolitan moka machine to make coffee and a typical Italian attitude with great desire to make new experiences and new friends. Fortunately I discovered that the people here are very hospitable and willing to help, so all that is left is a nice cup of coffee to share with!
What would you bring from Taiwan?
From Taiwan, I think I will bring with me the desire to do always more, and a strong belief in the future that has allowed this country to reach exceptional results, making it a giant in the production and research in many high technology sectors, in spite of its physical dimension and unavailability of raw material and energy.
What are the main projects your office is currently undertaking in trade development?
Our main activity involves the promotion of consumer goods as well as industrial goods. For example, we organize presentations of Italian food products with tasting, we participate in the major exhibitions, especially in the mechanical sector, which take place in Taiwan and we also organize special missions for operators and journalists to visit companies and exhibitions in Italy.
Last October 2008, we had an educational seminar with extra virgin olive oil tasting and in November a presentation with twelve of best Italian wine producers. They both were very successful and appreciated by the operators and by the public. This year we are planning on repeating this experience. Next March, we will participate to the exhibition TIMTOS, one of the most important mechanical exhibitions that take place in Asia, and for that occasion we will present with a seminar the exhibition EMO 2009 of Milan.
What are some special services / social events your office offers every year?
Every year at ICE, we realize a global promotional program that is planned by our headquarters in Rome, which identifies the different countries and individual sectors’ detailed program for all the events and specific initiatives to be done all over the world in the coming year.
In Taiwan, there are going to be seminars with food and wine tasting, a visit of Taiwanese businessmen and journalists in Italy and Italian businessmen and journalists visiting Taiwan.
The dates and all the details of the single initiatives and event still have to be set. To participate or have more information you can write to this email: email@example.com .
What are your hobbies in your free time, and what are your recommended places to visit in Taiwan?
In my free time, I take walks, visit museums and art shows, and travel as much as possible, I especially enjoy cooking traditional Italian dishes from my homeland (the Sannio in southern Italy). I also try to learn the local cuisine.
I haven’t yet had the chance to visit much of the island, but the southern and central parts, which I have visited, are rich of history and natural beauty.
I want to able to discover for the end of my experience here, the most typical and interesting places that this amazing island is hiding.
Hottest products between TW/your country?
In the exchange trade between Italy and Taiwan, it’s Taiwan that turns up as the winner with a greater surplus (US$ 2.4 million in 2007), because of the strong technological and electronic component as well as for the large production of industrial and mechanical consumer goods for Italian companies. We balance from our side with luxury consumer goods, wine and food products and the industrial machinery and equipment (US$1.56 million in 2007).
Care to comment on any other topic?
I am very glad for the opportunity given to me to share this experience in Taiwan because from a personal aspect it’s stimulating a lot of interest and also giving me much energy, and from a professional aspect it will be interesting to see and understand how this financial and economic global crisis will be dealt with, from the Taiwan perspective.
I also want to stress once again my great sense of admiration for this community that has made of this small island a worldwide economic and financial power (US$470 billion of foreign trade in total and US$16.855 GDP in 2007) in spite of all kinds of difficulties, above all the political and diplomatic obstacles, that Taiwan has been going through in the past fifty years.