New Italian consulates are opening in Ho Chi Minh City, the economic capital of Vietnam, and Chongqing, a Chinese municipality with over 30 million inhabitants.
The accreditation of Italy’s new Consul General in Ho Chi Minh City, Carlotta Colli, was formalised on 15 January and the new consulate is scheduled to open in March 2014. The opening will be the culmination of the initiatives for “The Year of Italy in Vietnam”, the promotional and cultural programme organised by our Embassy in Hanoi in 2013 to mark the 40th anniversary of bilateral diplomatic relations. With this new consulate, Italy will be able to strengthen its presence in a region experiencing strong economic expansion. This is especially significant given Vietnam’s location within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), a future single market of nearly 600 million people that is complementary and an alternative to the economies of China and the Indian sub-continent.
The decision to boost the Italian presence in Vietnam reflects the closer relations being established between Rome and Hanoi. A process that culminated with the signing in Rome of the 2013-14 Action Plan for the implementation of the Strategic Partnership between the two countries. The Partnership encompasses the infrastructure, defence, energy, textiles, automobile and mechanical engineering, fishing and agri-food sectors. Vietnam is a pivotal country in free trade agreements with all the countries of Southeast Asia and the other economies of the region (China, India, Japan and Korea): suffice to consider that 90% of Vietnamese products enter China with zero-rate duty.
Our recently opened Consulate General in Chongqing serves a huge urban area in south-central China.Chongqinghas a population of 33 million, to which should be added the inhabitants of the entire consular region, making a total of about 200 million people. Chongqing’s economic district, the focal point of a large-scale infrastructure development plan, is growing at double the rate of the country as a whole and offers interesting opportunities forItalian businesses. The Chinese authorities have shown strong support for the new Consulate, in view of what they deem to be its strategic value within the broader bilateral relations framework.
The opening of the two new diplomatic missions is part of the strategy to refocus the Foreign Ministry’s diplomatic and consular network in keeping with the spending review. The aim is to adapt the instruments and initiatives supporting our citizens and businessesto the new challenges and opportunities of the global market.
At the recent Senate hearing, Deputy Minister Dassù illustrated the reasons for this change of emphasis. “We need to restructure the network because we’re required to do so by a series of legislative provisions, and because an imbalance has been created between staffing levels and the overall number of missions. We’re trying to make the changes while guaranteeing our services to Italian citizens and at the same refocusing the network to reflect the new geopolitical priorities. In this light, we’re reducing the ‘weight’ of the network in Europe to boost the Italian presence in new countries and new markets”.
The savings achieved through closures or “mergers” in regions where we are more fully represented will enable our country to expand its presence in the emerging markets. A goal that is in line with the Destinazione Italia plan recently launched by the Letta Government.
As the Farnesina announced, “the new Consulates General in Ho Chi Minh City and Chongqing are intrinsic to the ‘diplomacy for growth’ programme promoted by Foreign Minister Emma Bonino with the intention of supporting Italian businesses abroad. With the two new consulates, we aim to boost the number of contact points for our business communities in the region, and smooth the way for business contacts and opportunities with our Chinese and Vietnamese counterparties and with the broader Asian market. Over the last two years, our consular network in China has already issued a quarter of all Schengen area visas granted to Chinese citizens. A proportion that is set to rise with the opening of Chongqing, not least in the run-up to EXPO Milano 2015”.