Italian Economic Journal

, Volume 4, Issue 1, pp 1–31 | Cite as

Back on Track? A Macro–Micro Narrative of Italian Exports

  • Matteo Bugamelli
  • Silvia Fabiani
  • Stefano Federico
  • Alberto Felettigh
  • Claire Giordano
  • Andrea Linarello
Research Paper - Keynote


Using both macro and firm-level data, we provide an in-depth analysis of Italy’s goods exports relative to its three main trading partners (Germany, France and Spain) in order to gauge the causes of its relative underperformance prior to the 2008–2009 crisis and to assess whether the improvement observed since 2010 reflects cyclical or structural factors. We argue that Italy’s relatively unsatisfactory performance in the 2000s was the result of the interplay between the appreciation of its real effective exchange rate, its specialization in products that were particularly exposed to increasing competition from China, and the size distribution of its exporters, skewed towards small firms. In recent years signs of structural improvement have emerged, alongside cyclical factors, in connection with a shift in the specialization of exports towards sectors that are less exposed to competitive pressures; moreover, the selection process triggered by the exceptional difficulties encountered by micro and small firms both before and during the global financial crisis have plausibly strengthened the population of Italian exporters, making it structurally more resilient to exchange rate appreciations and more capable of keeping pace with external demand developments.


Exports Competitiveness Specialization Firm size 

JEL Classifications

F14 F60 L11 L60 


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Copyright information

© Società Italiana degli Economisti (Italian Economic Association) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Banca d’Italia, DG Economics, Statistics and ResearchRomeItaly

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