(AGI) Milan, Sept 26 - Bilateral trade between Ivory Coast andLombardy, Italy's foremost region in terms of GDP, rose byalmost half during the first semester of 2015, Milan's Chamberof Commerce reported on Saturday. According to data gathered byItaly's national statistics institute (ISTAT) for 2014 and thesecond trimester of 2015, trade reached 62 million euros in thefirst six months of the current year, a 46 percent increasecompared to the 43 million euros registered for the same periodlast year. The increase was mainly fueled by exports, whichrose by 125 percent from 18 million euros in the first semesterof 2014 to 40 million euros in the first semester of 2015.Milan was the top city in Lombardy for imports, amounting to 17millions euros, or 73 percent of the total for the entireregion. Bergamo and Mantova followed with 1.8 million euroseach. Varese was the foremost city in terms of exports (16million euros, or 40 percent of the total), followed by Milan(13 million euros, 32 percent), and Bergamo (6.7 percent). Theprimary exports were means of transport (13 million euros) andmachinery (12 million euros), while the main imports wereagricultural goods (18 million euros, or 79 percent of overallimports). As part of the business initiatives proposed duringthe Expo 2015, Ivory Coast will take part in an economic forumon September 28 organised by Milan's Chamber of Commerce andPromos, its special branch for international activities, incollaboration with the Expo 2015 Italian Pavilion and IvoryCoast's embassy to Italy. The next forums will regard Guinea(October 2) and Djibouti (October 8). "Expo and theinternational spirit it has created are stimulating initiativesdedicated to new or interesting markets for our businesses,like those in Africa," Alfredo Zini, Councillor of Milan'sChamber of Commerce, said in a statement. The aim is to"further develop business opportunities in order to offerItalian and Lombardian operators the chance to achieve concretecollaboration opportunities," he added. Ivory Coast has apopulation of some 22 million people and its economy hassteadily grown by around 8 percent over the last three years,with predictions of the same amount for 2015-2016. It is thestrongest economy in the West African Economic and MonetaryUnion (UEMOA) - of which it makes up 40 percent of the totalGDP - alongside Benin, Burkina Faso, Guinea-Bissau, Mali,Niger, Senegal, and Togo. Ivory Coast is also a member of theEconomic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), whichenglobes 340 million people and 15 states (Benin, Burkina Faso,Cape Verde, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, IvoryCoast, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone,and Togo). (AGI). .