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Speech by the Hon. Minister in Naples at “The Farnesina Meets Companies” event

Naples, 22 May 2017

(The authentic text is only the one actually delivered)


Attorney Girolamo Pettrone, (Extraordinary Commissioner of the Naples Chamber of Commerce)

Dear friends and entrepreneurs,

I wish to thank you very much for the warm welcome.

My visit is part of a tour that is taking me across Italy, from North to South, that we have called “The Farnesina Meets Companies”.

I am very pleased to be here in Naples, my very first stop in our wonderful South.

The economy of the Campania Region is strongly export-driven and has contributed to the country’s recovery after the economic crisis.

Overall, between 2008 and 2016, Italian exports grew by 13% accounting for approx. 25% of our GDP. The total value of exports in 2016 exceeded 417 billion euros with a  trade surplus of 51.5 billion euros.

It should be pointed out that in the first quarter of 2017, Italy recorded impressive export figures, accounting for an increase of 14.5% compared to a year earlier – the first time in over five years.

A remarkable success that the Campania Region has contributed to achieve, thanks to its strong export vocation. It ranks ninth among the ‘top ten’ exporting Italian regions, accounting for 9.9 billion euros in 2016 (2.4 % of Italian exports).

The agrifood sector is Campania’s most important industry, followed by high-technology sectors such as aerospace and pharmaceutical. Nowadays, Campania is known around the world as a dynamic region that combines quality of products with technological innovation and great determination.

Such data speak of many successful enterprises, such as Rummo, a pasta maker whose factory was completely destroyed by the 2015 floods, but that was able to start anew thanks to the determination of its managers and the solidarity of many citizens.

I would like to focus on the agrifood sector which is the region’s leading industry. Protecting the “Italian brand” is one of my economic diplomacy priorities. We are committed to defending our geographical indications of origin, to counter the spread of Italian-sounding products and “food traffic light” policies, as well as protecting intellectual and industrial property.

 More generally, Italy’s economic diplomacy is contributing to fight protectionism, however disguised it may be, and removing non-tariff barriers to our products by asserting our position in free trade agreements.

I attach the greatest importance to Italy’s role in the world, which is why I believe in opening up markets. This is because for an exporting country like ours, protectionism has never been the right answer. Italy depends on international trade for growth.

Leaving aside any sort of rhetoric, the stakes are high. And entrepreneurs like you should also make an extra effort to defend free trade.

I also believe in more Europe, not less Europe. In a global market which is constantly expanding, we would be in a weaker position, if we did not have Europe. Europe helps us protect our products in the world.

However, I also believe that Europe must make the most of its potential: the Single Market, the Economic and Monetary Union, and international trade policies.

It would be sheer folly to leave the Euro now! We should always be mindful of the fact that the Euro has guaranteed the value of the homes, savings and pensions of our citizens. If we left the Euro, there would be a serious risk of their value and the wealth of Italians being halved.

The Euro has protected us against an economic crisis that could have been even more severe and offers us very low interest rates, which allow us to pay off our loans and fund growth. In the past, with the “Lira”, interest rates were as high as 20%.

A couple of weeks ago, the European Commission published data on confidence in the Eurozone, which has risen to levels that haven’t been seen in 10 years!

On another positive note, world trade has started growing again at a rate we have not seen in nearly seven years.

Unfortunately, too many global investors have been obsessed with the “risks” of the Eurozone, forgetting about the “opportunities” the largest common market can offer.

I am not saying that risks do not exist anymore, but they are far more political than economic nowadays. The so-called “fundamentals” of the European and Italian economy are improving. However, the sprading of populist movements continues to represent a serious hindrance to attracting foreign investments.

We must get off the populists’ “train of fear” and hop back on the “train of confidence” in our future. As you know very well, confidence is what growth feeds on.

Also, Brexit can be an opportunity. An ever growing number of companies producing in the United Kingdom are determined to find new competitors in Europe, and in Italy, to replace English suppliers and continue to enjoy the benefits of the Single Market.

I am here today with a twofold objective: I want to listen to and understand the needs of entrepreneurs; and I would like to help you use the full potential of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs throughout the world.

Economic diplomacy is a strategic priority of my mandate at the Farnesina. The demand for services from companies wanting to internationalise is growing. Foreign policy must be a tool to support them and sustain their economic growth.

Today the Ministry of Foreign Affairs does a lot more for companies than people imagine. However, it is also true that not all entrepreneurs are fully aware of what diplomacy can do for them. In light of this fact, I have decided to come to them.

My journey started at Confindustria, on 31 January, where we presented an independent study by Prometeia on the impact of economic diplomacy.

It is estimated that tenders and contracts awarded to Italian companies, which have enjoyed the support of the diplomatic and consular network, have generated more than 1% of GDP and 234,000 jobs, particularly thanks to their impact on the whole supply chain in Italy.

The Prometeia research also confirmed that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and its network of over 200 Embassies and Consulates in 126 countries assist above all small- and medium-sized companies: 61% of SMEs have signed a contract or won a tender thanks to our support.

But we can and we must do more! Some look at geopolitical scenarios and the  unpredictability associated with them as a threat. I believe we should also seize the opportunities they create!

Opportunities companies have are enormous and the Government is fully aware of the need to provide increasingly effective support for the presence of our companies in foreign markets.

For this purpose, we set up in 2011 the Situation Room for Internationalisation, co-chaired by the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and Economic Development. The goal is to bring public and private entities together to identify the markets and sectors on which to focus promotional resources, avoiding duplication and overlaps.

The doors of our Embassies and Consulates abroad are always open to Italian companies, regarding their relations with foreign markets to: attract investments, make investments, penetrate markets and expand exports, win new markets, participate in tenders, and also deal with disputes and overcome legal and administrative obstacles.

Sharing quality information and providing institutional support are the pillars on which our action rests. Our Embassies and Consulates are privileged interlocutors of local institutions and political, economic and civil society representatives. It is in our Embassies and Consulates where an overarching understanding of Italian interests takes shape.

It is a global view of Italian interests in the world that has motivated us to develop an integrated promotion strategy for “Brand Italy”. It  is a strategy that combines the business sector with the promotion of Italian language and culture, science and innovation, and the uniqueness of our regional territories.

It is a brand that blends beauty, creativity and technological know-how, which we have translated into the “Italian Way of Life” integrated programme, promoted by every component of our network in the world.

I will never grow tired of repeating across the world that, in addition to being the second largest manufacturing country in Europe, we are also a superpower of lifestyle, culture and beauty.

 Naples and  Campania are a magnificent example of this asset of ours. A wealth of natural and historical heritage – from the Amalfi coast to Pompeii – that all the world admires. As a result, we should leverage on our primacy to relaunch our economy.

But the most important message that I would like to leave you with today is that the Embassies and Consulates are your “home” abroad. Resort to their support. Always.

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