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The territorial base

The exports of almost all the Italian regions declined in 2009, but the fall was particularly pronounced in Sardinia and Sicily, owing to their specialization in petroleum derivatives, and in the regions of the Adriatic seaboard. As a result of the relatively large contractions for Emilia Romagna and Veneto in 2009, the North-East gave up some of the gain in its share of Italian exports that it had accumulated during the decade. The benefits of this accrued mainly to central Italy (Lazio and Tuscany). In recent years the share of Italian exports of the South and Islands had tended to increase, but this had been due almost exclusively to the specialization of the Sardinia and Sicily in oil refining. The crisis brought the South and Islands’ share back down to a level not far from that at the start of the decade. In the first quarter of 2010 the export recovery involved all the regions except Marche, Molise and Basilicata; it was particularly robust in the Islands, owing to the rebound in the prices of energy products. The role of Italy’s industrial districts remains decisive for the model of specialization of Italian exports in the phase of rapid transformation that the international economy is going through. Although the crisis in the traditional personal and household consumer goods sectors had heavy consequences for some local labor systems, other districts, especially those specialized in machinery, suffered more moderate losses than the rest of the country.12 One channel for the transformation of industrial districts is the entry of foreign multinational corporations, which sometimes acquire control of local small and medium-sized enterprises primarily with a view to strengthening their presence on the market. This can lead to enhanced efficiency and competitiveness for the acquired enterprises, thanks to the adoption of advanced managerial practices that are normally little used in small local firms.13 Foreign equity stakes in Italian companies are highly concentrated in a few regions. In recent years the South and Islands’ share of the number of workers in foreign companies’affiliates in Italy has fallen, but it must be borne in mind that production units of foreign affiliates with headquarters in other Italian regions are also located in the South and Islands. An even higher degree of regional concentration characterizes the distribution of Italian firms with affiliates abroad.