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SACE and SIMEST leading the way with AEFI for the internationalisation of Italian trade fairs

The CDP Group's export and internationalisation hub has signed a memorandum of understanding with AEFI for joint initiatives aimed at the international expansion of the sector.

It is a dynamic industry that in the early months of 2017 has shown signs of recovery, thanks in part to the internationalisation of the product offered. Turnover of €60 billion generated by the fairs, giving rise to 50% of Italian companies' exports.

SACE and SIMEST leading the way with AEFI for the internationalisation of Italian trade fairs
19 July 2017

SACE and SIMEST, which form the CDP Group’s export and internationalisation hub, have signed a memorandum of understanding with AEFI (Italian Exhibition and Trade Fair Association) to identify areas of common action to promote and foster the internationalisation of Italian fairs and companies.

The agreement was presented today at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation. Present at the occasion were Benedetto Della Vedova, Undersecretary of State for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Ettore Riello, Chairman of AEFI, Beniamino Quintieri, Chairman of SACE, Salvatore Rebecchini, Chairman of SIMEST and Pietro Piccinetti, AEFI Internationalisation Commission Coordinator.

A national exhibition system with a strong international vocation is essential to attract visitors from abroad and to support the presence of our businesses in fairs across the world. It is precisely to lend impetus and effectiveness to this mission that this agreement formalises and structures a strategic collaboration between the financial and trade fair dimensions of our export sector. The objective is to consolidate and further strengthen the successes of Italian companies in international markets, essential factors in the recovery that is gradually gathering pace”, said Benedetto Della Vedova, Undersecretary of State for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation. “The record for exports posted by Italy last year, which are continuing to grow in the first few months of 2017, testifies to the ability of our companies to compete not only within the single market, but also in the changing and complex environment outside the EU. The Government is working hard to provide the necessary institutional support, including through the network of embassies, consulates and ICE offices and collaborative relationships with AEFI, SACE and SIMEST.

The agreement is part of the association's activities aimed at encouraging the development of an Italian industrial policy in which trade fairs are a vehicle for promotion abroad for companies and examples of excellence of the Made in Italy sector”, remarked Ettore Riello, Chairman of AEFI. “Thanks to the financial and insurance solutions specially designed by SACE and SIMEST for AEFI, our associates will have an additional opportunity for growth in foreign markets. We are convinced that the various resources available will foster an expansion in the direct participation of Italian fairs abroad.”

In a scenario like the one we are experiencing now, full of risks but also opportunities, companies need to develop a strategic plan to increase their visibility and awareness”, said Beniamino Quintieri, Chairman of SACE. “In this planning process, one of the most effective tools is the trade fair, which remains an essential strategic asset both for large companies and for SMEs even in today’s digital age. Today's agreement confirms SACE’s ability to respond effectively to the needs of those who, like AEFI, are working every day promote and support the Made in Italy brand and all the companies that are ready to demonstrate Italian excellence around the world”.

SIMEST has long recognised that the exhibition system is a qualifying factor in any Italian industrial policy to support the international expansion of Italian SMEs”, said Salvatore Rebecchini, Chairman of SIMEST. “Supporting the Italian fairs in their internationalisation process is a goal that SIMEST has been pursuing for years as a qualified minority shareholder in the joint ventures established by Italian fairs abroad, facilitating the capital strengthening of the fairs on competitive conditions. Today's agreement will also enable us to think about the possibility of new dedicated instruments that are even better tailored to the needs of the sector.”

I have promoted the agreement between AEFI, SACE and SIMEST with great conviction”, added Pietro Piccinetti, Coordinator of the AEFI Internationalisation Commission, “because I firmly believe that internationalisation is a key strategic lever for the Italian system and that trade fairs are the ideal bridgehead for entering foreign markets. Fairs give rise to 50% of Italian exports and are the main vehicle for spreading the image of our country and of Made in Italy in the world. To continue doing this, and to do it even better, it is vital that they receive all possible support from the institutions and bodies involved in this sector, and I am sure that the accord being signed today is a step in this direction”.

The agreement ‑ which is annual and is renewable – envisages the organisation of a range of actions for AEFI members, including the launch of a forum to undertake initiatives aimed at supporting and increasing the international scope of Italian fairs. More specifically, workshops and information webinars will be organised to present SACE and SIMEST solutions to companies for growth in global markets. In addition, the agreement provides for the creation of synergies between AEFI, SACE and SIMEST to support the trade fair sector and to support the examples of Italian excellence participating in it.


Chairman: Ettore RIELLO (second term)

Vice Chairmen (members of the Steering Committee): Franco BONI, Lorenzo CAGNONI, Giovanni LAEZZA

Secretary General: Loredana SART


Administrative/Juridical Commission, Coordinator: Giovanni BARBATO

Fairs Network Commission, Coordinator: Giovanni LAEZZA

Internationalisation Commission, Coordinator: Pietro PICCINETTI

Centre Technical Commission, Coordinator: Giovanni GIULIANI




  • Exhibition space: 4,200,000 square meters, of which 2,270,000 covered
  • Events in 2017: Total: 955 (200 international, 266 national, 400 regional/local, 89 organised abroad)
  • International events in 2017: 200 mainly regarding the following sectors: textiles (17%); sport, recreation, entertainment and art (11%); jewellery, watches and accessories (9%); food, drink and hospitality (9%); mechanical engineering (9%).

         92% of the events are held at AEFI-associated exhibition venues

  • Total exhibitors: 200,000; (international exhibition exhibitors: 98,000, of which about 28% from abroad)
  • Total visitors: 22,000,000 (international exhibition visitors: 13,000,000, of whom 10% from abroad)
  • Turnover of €60 billion agreed at fairs each year
  • 50% of exports generated by contacts originating from participation in trade fairs
  • 75.3% of companies see fairs as a key tool for their own development, useful for making direct contact with the market and communicating company skills in the active search for potential buyers



Contact details for the media:


Tel. +39 06 6736.888



Tel. +39 06 68635.777



Tel: +39 02 89011300





SACE, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Cassa Depositi e Prestiti, offers export credit services, credit insurance, protection of foreign investments, financial guarantees, bonding, and factoring services. With €87 billion in transactions insured in 198 countries, it supports the competitiveness of companies in Italy and abroad, ensuring more stable cash flows and transforming the default risk of companies into development opportunities..

SIMEST, 76%-owned by SACE, with leading Italian banks and trade associations among its other investors, supports companies throughout their entire international development process, providing soft loans for internationalisation, export credit support and equity investments. 

Together, SACE and SIMEST form the export and internationalisation hub of the CDP Group.

AEFI-Associazione Esposizioni e Fiere Italiane is a non-profit association established in 1983 that represents the Italian trade fair system. AEFI is a key partner for operators and institutions and provides support to its members through the organisation of initiatives to increase the international scope of Italian trade fairs and through specific activities and programmes in the areas of training, marketing, promotion and research, as well as by providing services to trade fairs through the operation of its commissions: the Centre Technical Commission, the Administrative/Juridical Commission, the Internationalisation Commission and the Fairs Network Commission.

In the area of internationalisation, AEFI supports its associates through agreements with players in strategic markets. AEFI promoted the establishment of ISFCert (the Institute for the Certification of Trade Fair Statistical Data), which uses rigorous methods to enable Italian organisers to present and rely on standardised data, in the name of transparency and reliability.

AEFI represents Italian trade fairs in the UFI (the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry). Chaired by Ettore Riello, AEFI members include 35 trade fair venues, who organise more than 1,000 events a year with total exhibition space of 4.2 million square metres. AEFI exhibition venues host 92% of the international trade fairs and 85% of the total trade fairs held each year in Italy.