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Pact for Export drives record Italian exports during the pandemic

Following 2020, a year marked by a global economic crisis which also took a heavy toll on Italy, the year 2021 has proved – albeit not across the board – crucial in consolidating global economic recovery. Italy, for its part, has witnessed growth in both GDP and employment, a significant contributor to rekindling exports.

Buoyed by a rise in global trade, during the first 11 months of the year, Italy’s exports hit a record 471 billion euros, up not just year-on-year but also with respect to 2019 (443bn, +6.3pc) – an all-time record for Italian trade. Such figures are all the more extraordinary upon due consideration of the fact that Italy is outperforming European partners Germany and France.

The success of our Country’s export is the product of teamwork.

By fostering and actively engaging in dialogue with the business sector and trade associations, we at the Farnesina have sought to bolster public-private partnerships with a view to supporting internationalisation processes.

At the height of the crisis, we addressed the sector’s key and urgent needs via the Pact for Export, a set of measures and interventions leading to a 5.7-billion-euro package aimed both at curtailing the impact of the crisis and – as now confirmed by figures – at promoting a rapid recovery among our businesses, so as to seize any opportunity offered by the international economic cycle.

Issuing from a consultation process involving more than 140 business and trade associations, the Export Pact is a strategy that builds on dialogue with the private sector – a dialogue which, geared towards fostering Italian businesses and industry, remains central to all actions deployed by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation. At the latest meetings of Situation Room on Internationalisation, we further engaged more than 150 business and trade associations in an active proposal-building consultation process leading up to the establishment of a strategic export policy for 2022.

While we may certainly take pride in the work carried out so far and in the results thus attained, we share the understanding that now is the time to press ahead and further promote the internationalisation of Brand Italy so that they may attain their full potential.

With precisely that goal in mind, we have recently launched the Italy is simply extraordinary: beIT communication campaign.

Ranking as Italy’s first-ever nation branding initiative and targeting our 26 top priority international trade partners, the campaign aims to tap the potential of cutting edge communication platforms and media to both provide a fuller portrait of Italy, based on its culture, traditions and expertise, and to promote our Country’s outstanding track record in innovation, research and technology – especially with respect to leading Italian business and industries warranting greater international prominence.

In respect of the latter, I wish to referrer to Italy’s industrial machinery and plant manufacturers, the robotics sector, the pharmaceuticals and cosmetics industry, our shipbuilders, the aerospace and security sector, as well as our restoration and gaming industry. These are just some examples of the sectors which – unlike the agrifood, fashion and design, furniture and luxury automotive sectors – foreign partners less identify with Italy. The goal of this initiative is straightforward: bolster Italy’s international trade standing and carve out a bigger share of the market to benefit our businesses – especially SMEs. With reference to small and medium-sized enterprises, I wish to highlight the Farnesina’s efforts to support the digitalisation and sustainability of Italian SMEs seeking international outreach.

We at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation can also take pride in having fulfilled its goals pursuant to the National Recovery and Resilience Plan, via the allocation of 1.2 billion euros towards the combined digital and green transition of SMEs, with special provisions for businesses in Southern Italy. The initiative, currently boasting more than 5,200 business beneficiaries, was launched pursuant to priorities set forth under the Next Generation EU plan, and as such seeks to boost Italian businesses’ competitiveness on international markets by enhancing their ability to innovate and to be sustainable and by presenting Italy under a new light, highlighting its international engagement and its role as an innovator. I also wish to note that of the initially earmarked funds, some 400 million euros are still available in the form of easy-term loans and non-repayable grants – the funds are sizeable and are available now, an opportunity worth seizing by our SMEs. The figures for 2021 testify to the great shape that Brand Italy is in, proving that it is ideally positioned to gain an ever stronger foothold within international markets. The record figures for the past year stand as clear proof that exports are essential to harnessing growth for Italian businesses. That is why in adopting such measures we have sought to make them structural: the budget law for the next five years ending 2026, now envisages an annual 1.5 billion euro revolving fund and annual grants worth 150 million euros.

Furthermore, we are more than confident that Brand Italy has a role to play in the international economy, not just as a supplier of high-end consumer and products, but also as a key player in overhauling the global production chain via its highly innovative intermediate goods and services. It is on such grounds that, via the budget law, we have set the ball rolling towards providing further support to start-ups with an international outlook – a process which involves optimising the positioning and functions of the SIMEST venture capital fund, so as to increase the synergy with the Fondo Nazionale Innovazione – Cdp Venture Capital.

As reliant as we are on our manufacturing industry, the competitiveness of our businesses – especially our SMEs – is crucial to exploiting the full potential and to securing the success of outstanding Italian goods and services.

With that goal in mind, our endeavours shall continue to be in line with the Pact for Export and with the inclusive and participatory values underpinning it.