(AGI) Suzhou, May 25 - An initiative to strengthen ties between the eastern Chinese city of Suzhou and the Italian companies active there was proposed at an annual meeting in the city. The Italian Ambassador to China, Ettore Sequi, set things rolling at the ninth Appreciation Meeting, an annual engagement between the local administration of the city (population 10 million+) and the many Italian companies (140+) who make this the most important Italian industrial district outside Italy. The idea is to set up a 'technical committee' for these enterprises. Suzhou is the centre of relations between Italy and China, Sequi said during the opening of the event, organised by the Italian Chamber of Commerce in China, with the support of the Italian Embassy in Beijing, the Consulate General of Italy in Shanghai, the Italian Trade Agency (ICE) and local institutions. "We launched the idea of setting up a joint technical working group with representatives of Italian companies and local institutions to better understand each other's expectations and to improve support to our businesses here," said Sequi. "The Embassy supports them and will continue to follow the group's work." The meeting is "an effective platform for giving support to businesses" in Suzhou, said the director of the city's Foreign Affairs Office, Xu Huadong, stressing the importance of his city's relations with Italy - not least with Venice, which became Suzhou's sister city in 1980. "But the meeting is not limited to today, we are always ready to be at your side," he promised. Sergio Bertasi, president of the Italian Chamber of Commerce in China, emphasised the importance of Suzhou for Italian companies. The advanced, high-tech companies that are active in the area "are by their nature perfectly aligned with the development plans of this country", he said. Ambassador Sequi also had a meeting with the deputy mayor of Suzhou, Sheng Lei, who called for increased collaboration between the Chinese city and the Italian companies and said the annual meeting was an "important platform for collaboration" between the two. "Suzhou has much to learn from Italy in the manufacturing sector," he concluded. (AGI) . .