Until 1945, the Italian economy was largely agricultural.
From then on, Italy entered into a period of rapid industrial development.
This development peaked in the years between 1958 - 1963, the years of the "economic miracle".
Thus for instance in 1961, the growth in the GDP reached 8.3%.
Nevertheless, in 1973 at the start of the oil crisis, there was a significant pullback in economic performance.
This is explained by the fact that Italy is compelled to import all the oil that it needs.
Neither is Italy rich in other natural resources and has to import most raw materials that are needed for industry.
Among its natural resources. Italy does have limited deposits of mercury, potash, marble and sulfur.
The center and north of the country are industrialized while agriculture is concentrated more in the south.
The unemployment rate in southern Italy is comparatively high and at times reaches 20%.
Among Italian agricultural products, the most prominent are wheat for export, sugar, potatoes and sweet corn - and of course, grapes that are used for the Italian wine industry which is known all over the world A total of some 7% of the Italian labor force is employed in agriculture.
In 2003 the unemployment rate in Italy was 8.6%.
Among the notable industrial export products are industrial equipment, cars, aircraft, chemical products and there is a highly developed textile and clothing industry.
In the main, Italian exports to the countries of the European Union that provide a market for some 56% of these goods, with Germany being the main export destination.
Import to Italy is also mainly from the EU states (in excess of 60%) and here too Germany is the leading country.
Despite the critical problem of total lack of oil and the need to import most raw materials for industry, Italy is considered the sixth largest industrial economy in the world, indisputably a considerable achievement.
When compared to the 11 founding nations of the EMU (the Economic Monetary Union) the rate of inflation is within acceptable limits.
Nevertheless, the rate of growth of the GDP is the slowest of the 11 founding nations the growth rate for the years 2002-2003 was 0.3%-0.4%
Italy's GDP for 2003 was $ 26,800 per capita.
Italy's main export partners in 2003were Germany (13.8%),France (12.3%) and the U.S. (8.5%).
In 2003 Italy's main imports were from Germany (17.9%) France (11.2%) and Netherlands (5.8%).
Italy is a member of a number of important international organizations in addition to the EU.
It is also a member of NATO.
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