(VELINO) Roma, 2 Jul - An Italian business mission to theRussian region of Stavrapol, under the name of "Italy meets theCaucasus", took place in recent days. The initiative wasorganised by the Italian honorary consul for the area togetherwith the embassy in Moscow and the Italian Institute forForeign Trade (ICE), in partnership with the Federal Ministryfor the North Caucasus. As well as a representative of thebi-national Chamber of Commerce, the business associationGIM-Unimpresa and Italian export credit agency SACE, themission saw the participation of over 40 companies fromdifferent production sectors, of which most are already activein other regions of Russia. However, others came specially fromItaly to look at the opportunities offered by the NorthCaucasus, of interest both in terms of exports, given thatItaly is the biggest exporter to the area, and in terms ofpossible direct investments or investments through the creationof joint ventures with local partners. The mission aimed to laythe foundations for strengthened bilateral cooperation,especially in healthcare, hospitality and agriculture, thelatter also in the adjacent Kabardino-Balkaria region. Italy isRussia's second largest European trading partner after Germanyand the fourth worldwide. The recent fluidity in relations, dueto the Ukrainian crisis, has led to a decline in trade of about15 percent but has not affected the strong relations betweenthe two countries. vel.