(AGI) St. Petersburg, June 17 - Italy is aiming to confirm its friendship and the importance of its economic and financial partnership with Russia at the International Economic Forum in St. Petersburg. It is also relaunching cooperation via joint investment projects in Italy and Russia in sectors ranging from energy and hi-tech to agriculture. The Italian-Russian round table on Friday, organised by the Conoscere Eurasia association, was attended by management from businesses that "together make up a sizeable portion of Italy's GDP", said Italy's Minister for Economic Development, Carlo Calenda. He said there was a need for a qualitative improvement in business ties between the countries. The next objective is to help Italian companies spread outside Moscow and St. Petersburg. "We're working with the Russian central government and various governors on 340 proposals for joint investment projects. They will be examined this year, with starts from 2017 onwards, and can be an important resource for Italian SMEs as well," he said. Along with Russian Deputy premier Arkady Dvorkovich, he closed the meeting that launched the Italian day at the forum which included a speech by Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. He was preceded by speakers from Italian and Russian businesses. The common theme of all the speeches was successful collaborations and their evolution under new conditions in Russia's market. Luigi Scordamiglia, CEO of Inalca SpA (Cremonini Group), which has almost 900 employees in its Russian plants, highlighted the contribution Italy can make in the agricultural sector. This was to make Russia self-sufficient and a leader in exports. Prospects of a cooperation in the food industry were the focus of the speech by Guido Maria Barilla, president of Barilla, which "produces Italian pasta in Russia, with Italian technology but an entirely Russian management of the operational structure". He said: "Bringing expertise, technology, and marketing outside the country and fusing with a culture so as to develop long-term cooperation is a significant part of the 'Made in Italy' strategy." The pasta company is planning strategic investments, especially in wheat crops, where it is working to improve the quality of its product, he added. The head of Italian aerospace company Leonardo-Finmeccanica, Mauro Moretti, detailed the history and tradition of Italian excellence in technology and engineering and relaunching cooperation with Russian partners. The chairman of energy giant Enel, Patrizia Grieco, repeated their interest in Russia's market, especially in the renewable energy sector, and emphasised the need for Russia to improve regulations. Marco Tronchetti Provera, CEO and VP of Pirelli, said Russia can be "an excellent base for exports, to expand the group's presence to China as well". He went on: "Russia is key for Pirelli, but also for Europe. The process of normalising relations must be accelerated and the business world must do its part, global balances depend on this. A break between Asia and Europe is unimaginable. Businesses must push towards normalising relations." (AGI). .