In recent years, the Italian Government has been committed to restoring the priority guaranteed to Latin America – a region deeply intertwined with our country in terms of shared historical and cultural links –in our foreign policy. The importance of the region is motivated primarily by the presence of relevant and well-integrated Italian communities, totalling two million citizens, along with a much higher number of Italian descendants, approximately 40 million: the greatest community of Italians citizens abroad is located in Argentina (over 900,000), followed by Brazil (about 460,000).
Another crucial reason underlying the priority attributed to Latin America is to be found in our economic interests. In 2015, 3,289 Italian companies recorded an annual turnover of EUR 54.2 billion in Latin America, primarily in the manufacturing sector (EUR 24.7 billion), followed by automotive (EUR 17.6 billion) energy, water and waste (EUR 13 billion). A result well beyond the annual turnover generated in Asia (EUR 38 billion), in Eastern Europe (EUR 20 billion) and in the Middle East (EUR 12 billion), which is basically explained by the leadership position that our numerous companies maintain in their respective sectors.
As far as South American countries are concerned, it is fundamental to continue to consolidate our profitable and intense relationships, both from a political and economic point of view, especially with Argentina, Brazil and Chile. In this context, since 2014, the Italian Government has considerably increased the number of high-level visits (i.e Mission of the former Prime Minister Renzi in Peru, Colombia, Chile and Cuba), culminated in the State Visit of President Mattarella in Argentina and Uruguay in May 2017, and the visit of Foreign Minister Alfano in Colombia and Brazil in February 2018.
Among the main open dossiers in the region, it is worth mentioning the Venezuelan crisis, a priority dossier and a matter of concern due to the large Italian community resident in the country (150,000 Italians, and 2 million Venezuelans with Italian origins) and substantial economic interests. Moreover, Italy is committed to supporting the Colombian Government in the management of peace process with the FARC and the ELN, through participation in the Trust Fund established at EU level for the financing of post-conflict support projects and various bilateral support programs, including in demining. In the multilateral framework, it is our strong interest to facilitate the conclusion of the main negotiations with the Region (EU-MERCOSUR, EU-Mexico, EU-Chile Association Agreements, OECD enlargement to the countries of the Region, Argentine Presidency of the G20).
Latin America is also experiencing a season of interesting political changes. After the electoral victory of center-right movements in Argentina, Brazil, Peru and - most recently - with the re-election of Sebastian Piñera in Chile, Italy is closely following the evolution of the overall political scenario also in light of the upcoming presidential elections in Paraguay (April 2018), Colombia, Mexico and Brazil (October 2018), which could further change the overall picture of the Continent, which had been predominantly left-oriented in the recent past.
In Central America, Italy plays an active role especially in the field of security and the fight against transnational organized crime, through programs financed by the MAECI and co-managed together with the Italian-Latin American Institute (IILA), in support of the Regional Security Strategy (ESCA) launched by the Central American Integration System (SICA).
As regards development support activities, in Central America, El Salvador has been confirmed as a priority country for our Cooperation, together with Cuba, in addition to Bolivia, the sole recipient of aid in South America.
Particular mention should be made to our bilateral relations - political, economic, entrepreneurial, legal and security, cultural, scientific and academic - with Mexico, which are periodically revised in the context of the Binational Commission, convened every two years, alternatively in Rome and in Mexico City, under the co-presidency of the Foreign Ministers. In addition, several Italian groups and companies have invested in the country, including ENEL, Pirelli, Ferrero, Barilla, ENI; FCA.
Over the last years, the relations with the Caribbean region have indeed witnessed a constant relaunch. This has been made possible also thanks to the figure of the Special Envoy of the MAECI for the Caribbean countries, who is tasked with developing and nurturing relations with both the regional organizations (the Caribbean Community / CARICOM and the Association of Caribbean States / ACS) and the individual Member States of CARICOM (countries where our Ambassadors in the region have only secondary accreditation). The priority issues in our dialogue with the Caribbean area are: the fight against organized crime (with particular reference to illicit capital flows and money laundering), the environmental protection, the fight against climate change and the prevention / management of natural disasters.
In the Caribbean region, the bilateral relations with Cuba are strong and are continuously growing, as witnessed by numerous exchanges of Visits, even at high level (most recently, in June 2017, the Minister of Foreign Affairs Rodríguez Parrilla completed a four-day mission in Rome). In addition, in order to periodically take stock of the Italian-Cuban relations, it has been established a Political Dialogue Mechanism, whose fifth edition should take place in Havana in 2018. A central role in this successful relaunch has been played by the Italo-Latin American Institute (IILA), an international organization, which gathers Italy and all Latin American countries. In this regard, the VIII Italy-Latin America and Caribbean Conference, held at the MAECI on 13 December 2017, is a crucial biannual event, a defining moment of the dialogue between our country and the subcontinent. In February 2018, the MAECI hosted an interministerial meeting, as an operational follow-up to this conference, which gathered Italian technical Ministries and the main Italian companies and groups active in the area.