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


(The authentic text is only the one actually delivered)

Florence, 5 May 2017

President Luigi Salvadori (President of Confindustria Firenza)e, President of the Marche Regional President Leonardo Bassilichi ( President of the Florence Chamber of Commerce)
Dear friends and entrepreneurs,
Allow me to thank you very much for the warm welcome.
My visit to Florence is part of a tour that is taking me across the Peninsula, from North to South, that we have called “The Farnesina Meets Companies”.
I am very pleased to be here with you today, because the Tuscany Region is the perfect example of Italy being a superpower in terms of creativity, imagination, lifestyle , culture and and so much beauty.
Tuscany is home to a modern and dynamic entrepreneurship. It also represents the most beautiful and well-established image of Italy abroad. A cultural, natural, artistic and lifestyle heritage that makes it even easier to associate what we produce in Italy with an idea of beauty and quality.
Tuscany alone represents 8% of Italian exports in the world, accounting for 33.2 billion euros of the 417 billion euros, which is the total figure for Italian exports in 2016. This further confirms the Region’s strong entrepreneurial vocation and openess to foreign markets.
Tuscany prides itself on a varied economy so much so that it would be difficult to choose one sector over the other and call it the region’s primary sector. We can mention several outstanding sectors such as mechanics (Officine Galileo, Nuovo Pignone), engineering and architecture, chemical industry, pharmaceutics, fashion, the leather industry (Roberto Cavalli, Salvatore Ferragamo, Gucci, Enrico Coveri), furniture and goldworking, the banking and credit sector (Banca Toscana, Banca CR Firenze, Findomestic) and insurance (LaFondiaria).
But what is truly unique to the Tuscan economy is the virtuous cooperation between craftsmanship and enterprises, something which is acknowledged and admired the world over.
It is a trait that is manifest in several sectors, but especially in the design and fashion industries: approx. 20,000 companies, out of a total of 400,000, work in these industries, whose export volume hits the figure of 8 billion euros thanks to the combination of the product’s style and quality.
Here in Tuscany, you are always able to create and innovate, something we may even take for granted in the homeland of Leonardo Da Vinci. Yet that has propelled our Italian products onto the world stage, supporting our Country on its economic recovery path.
Tuscany is a very successful brand that makes your region stand out on the global markets.
And one of the reasons why I am here talking to you today is to remind you that your products can always be showcased in our Embassies and Consulates the world over.
Our doors are open to promote Tuscany in a variety of fields from business to culture, from  technology to tourism, with no exceptions.
As entrepreneurs, you know very well that there is a strong “demand for Italy” in the world, especially in emerging countries with a growing upper middle class that have a great appetite for our products.
We can and we must do more in many such countries: from the Gulf countries to South Korea, from Vietnam to Indonesia, just to mention a few emerging countries that have shown great appreciation for Italian products.
One of my economic diplomacy priorities is to protect the “Italian  brand.” We are committed to  protecting our geographical indications of origin, to combating the  spread of Italian-sounding products and “food traffic light” policies,  and to protecting intellectual and industrial property.
More generally, economic diplomacy is a contributor against protectionism, however disguised it may be. It can be effective in removing non-tariff  barriers to our products, by asserting our position in free trade  agreements.
I care about 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.
Forgetting about the rhetoric, the stakes are high, and entrepreneurs like you have to make an extra effort to protect free trade.
I also believe in more Europe, not less Europe, because, in a growing global market, without Europe we would be in a weaker position. Europe  helps us protect our products in the world.
But 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 madness to leave the Euro right now! We should not forget 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 deeper 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%.
Just a few days 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 during the first months of 2017 at a rate that has not been seen in the last 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 have disappeared altogether,  but they are far more political than economic nowadays: the so-called  “fundamentals” of the European and Italian economy are improving.
Let’s step back on the “train of confidence”! Confidence as you know is a crucial ingredient of growth.
I am here today with a twofold objective: I want to listen to and  understand the needs of entrepreneurs, and I want 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 Ministry. The  demand for services from companies wanting to internationalise is  growing. Foreign policy must be a tool to support them and sustain  economic growth.
Today, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs does a lot  more for companies than people imagine but, as not all entrepreneurs are fully aware of what diplomacy can do for them, I have decided to come  to them.
So far I have travelled to Milan, Turin, Udine, Pescara, Padua and Treviso, but I began my journey back on 31 January at Confindustria,  where we presented an independent work by Prometeia on the impact of  economic diplomacy.
It is estimated that tenders and contracts  awarded to Italian companies which have received the support of our diplomatic and consular network have produced more than 1% of GDP and  234,000 jobs.
The study 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 consider geopolitical scenarios and their unpredictability as  threats: but we must also seize the  opportunities they create!
There are remarkable opportunities. Just consider that  Italy recorded exports of 417 billion euros and a trade surplus of 52 billion euros in 2016.
The Government is fully aware of the need to support the internationalisation process of Italian companies. To this end, it approved an Extraordinary Plan for the promotion of Italian products, allocating 380 billion euros for the 2015-2017 period.
How can the Farnesina and its diplomatic-consular network assist you on foreign markets?
I would like to answer to this question by saying that our doors are ‘wide open’ to companies for all your dealings with  foreign countries: to attract investments, make investments, penetrate  markets and expand exports, win new markets, participate in tenders,  deal with disputes and overcome legal and administrative obstacles.
Economic diplomacy makes available to all companies an asset made up of information, contacts and relations. Market intelligence and institutional support are the cornerstones of  our action. Because our Embassies and Consulates are privileged  interlocutors of local institutions and of on-site political, economic  and civil society representatives. And because our Embassies and  Consulates have a ballpark view of Italian interests.
This overarching vision of Italian interests in the world has motivated us to  develop an integrated promotion strategy for “Brand Italy”, intended as  the concept that merges the business sector with the promotion of  Italian language and culture, science and innovation, in addition to the uniqueness of our regional territories.
It is a brand that reflects beauty, creativity and technological  know-how. We have translated that into the “Italian Way of Life”  integrated programme promoted by every component of our network around  the world.
I will never tire of repeating across the world that, in addition to being the second biggest manufacturing country in  Europe, we are also a superpower of lifestyle, culture and beauty. And  we must capitalise on this primacy to relaunch our economy.
But  the most important message that I would like to convey to you today is  that the Embassies and Consulates are your “home” abroad.

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