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Backgrounder: Basic facts about Italy

2009-05-18 10:54:51 GMT2009-05-18 18:54:51 (Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

BEIJING, May 18 (Xinhua) -- China's top legislator Wu Bangguo starts an official goodwill visit to Italy on Monday.

The following are some basic facts about Italy.

Italy is a southern European country whose territory is composed of Apennine peninsula and a number of adjacent islands such as Sicily and Sardinia.

The country borders France on the northwest, Switzerland and Austria on the north and Slovenia on the northeast with Mount. Alps in between, and is surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea on its eastern, southern and western sides.

Italy has a total area of 301,000 square km, with Rome being its capital. The majority of its 59.13 million population speak Italian, while the minorities living in the northwest and northeast speak French, German and Slovenian.

As a developed industrialized country, Italy ranks the world's 6th largest economy with strengths in tourism, service industry and foreign trade.

It is known as the kingdom of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), as SMEs account for 98 percent of all its companies, which are highly specialized and have competitive edge in manufacturing leather products, shoes, garments, and so on.

China and Italy set up diplomatic ties in November 1970, and established comprehensive strategic partnership in 2004.

In recent years, the two countries have consolidated their bilateral political trust and enhanced fruitful cooperation in various fields such as trade, technology, culture and education.

In 2008, Sino-Italian bilateral trade volume reached 38.26 billion U.S. dollars, up 21.9 percent compared with the same period of the previous year.

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