These are very difficult times indeed. The current crisis can have serious repercussions on our economy and right now we are striving to offer an opportunity for cohesion around an insightful and transparent political project. Our citizens, households, the most fragile in society and, above all, our business sector are asking us to reach out to them. And I strongly believe that planning should always be at the heart of political decision-making at its best.
I also believe that it is equally useful and important to highlight the results we have achieved so far, thanks to the drive and initiative of the Foreign Ministry at the peak of the first wave. When the Covid virus had plunged us all into a state of bewilderment and uncertainty we immediately set about elaborating a new project – the Pact for Export – with the precious support of the Deputy Minister Manlio Di Stefano and Ambassador Lorenzo Angeloni, and are now reaping its first – albeit still partial – rewards.
The export results and trend data for November, as certified by the Central Statistics Office several days ago, testify, yet again, to the extraordinary resilience of our businesses, highlighting a key element: growth can only be achieved by pursuing a project inspired by vision. This applies to businesses, which need to reinvent themselves, day after day, in order to strengthen their foothold in the domestic and international markets. But is applies equally to our institutions, which are called on to drive and support development and competitiveness in the best possible way, to bring about well-being and jobs for the country as a whole.
The snapshot that emerges is a reassuring recovery of the “Made in Italy” brand: +4% month-over-month; +1.1% year-over-year, with rising exports to both EU (+4.8% on a monthly basis; +0.3% on an annual basis) and non-EU countries (+3.2% compared to October 2020; +2% trend). Compared to the same month in 2019, our products are more appreciated by China (+34.9%), Switzerland (+12.8%), Germany (+8.6%), the United Kingdom (+7.5%) and the United States (+4.7%).
First and foremost, this result is, of course, due to the outstanding resilience and tenacity of our businesses. But also to the unity of intent, method and perspective that, by working together, we have been able to imbue into the Pact for Export, designed in just under three months and signed last June by the government and the business world as a whole.
Improvable and, indeed, improved on continuously, the Pact has enabled our economic diplomacy to rally around a clearly defined mission, which features six areas of intervention and brings together the operational and strategic expertise of Ice, Sace, Simest, the Chambers of Commerce network and the Regions, in the shape of a one-stop shop for our businesses.
Cross-government teamwork, building on the skilful handling of negotiations in Brussels, has allowed us, for the first time, to expand grant funding through Law 394/81 up to 1.2 billion euros (out of a total of about 4 billion), broadening its scope for businesses until the end of June 2021 (there are ongoing negotiations, in Europe, to further expand these grants).
We still have many challenging months ahead. The confidence objectively instilled by these data should not convince us to lower our guard. Continuity of policies, constant commitment and unceasing dialogue are three essential elements to consolidate and build on the results achieved.
Both in the field of internationalisation and in the much broader field of industrial reform and policies, from whichever angle you look at it, Italy can only get back on its feet with a clear project around which all stakeholders can rally. We are immersed, perhaps without fully realising it, in one of the deepest paradigm shifts in history – economically, socially and technologically – which Covid-19 has only helped trigger.
We need to rebuild the country from the ground up, anchoring it strongly to the resumption of the European project; enhancing its role in the world, wholeheartedly maintaining a strong transatlantic position and reaffirming its vocation as a standard-bearer of multilateralism, which will inspire our entire G20 Presidency.
In the field of international trade, too, we have a vision, which we intend to put at the heart of our efforts in the coming months, hoping for support in this by the most forward-looking forces in the country and for effective collaboration in terms of improvement and implementation, to restore the importance of exports to our national wealth to absolute values even higher than those prior to the pandemic, to build up – and not supplant – the technologies that can enable us to rethink and strengthen our entrepreneurial vocation, to design a long-term strategy that can attract and retain financial resources and talents and multiply the effects of the National Recovery and Resilience Plan.
Last but not least, we need to forcefully restart the negotiations aimed at reassigning a central role to the World Trade Organization, to rebuild an adequate playing field where trade and investment flows can once again flourish globally. To do this we need time, political agility, cohesion, clarity of vision and the ability to get things done: a challenge within a challenge, for Italy, but one we want to take on and know we can win.