The foreign ministry confirmed it would be opening two new Consulates General, one in Ho Chi Minh City, the financial capital of Vietnam, and one in Chongking in south-central China, a city of over 30 million inhabitants. “The openings fall within the scope of the growth diplomacy programme promoted by Minister Emma Bonino and aimed at supporting the Italian business community abroad”, the ministry explained in a communiqué announcing the news.
Dassù, streamlining in Europe to boost presence in new markets
The current status of the diplomatic-consular network was also the topic of a report to the Senate on 16 December by Deputy Minister Marta Dassù. “We have to reorganise the network both as a result of a series of laws and of a basic imbalance that has been created between the number of missions and staff”, Dassù pointed out, assuring that the MFA was implementing this reorganisation while also “ensuring services to Italian nationals and, at the same time, reorienting the network toward the latest geopolitical priorities”. “With this in mind”, the Deputy Minister added, “we are streamlining the network in Europe in order to boost Italy’s presence in new countries and new markets”.
Chongqing Consulate General active as of 2014 in highly strategic area
As of the start of 2014, a new Consulate General of Italy has been open in Chongqing China, a large city in south-central China with over 33 million inhabitants, and will serve a surrounding consular jurisdiction of approximately 200 million people. Chongqing is growing at a rate double the national average and is the centrepiece of a massive infrastructure development plan that offers attractive prospects for Italian firms. The Chinese authorities have been very supportive of the new consulate, calling it strategic within the broader context of bilateral relations. Over the past 2 years, our diplomatic network in China has already issued one quarter of all Schengen visas issued to Chinese citizens, a share that is sure to rise with the opening of the new consulate, not least in view of the 2015 Milan EXPO.
New Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City in line with strengthened Italian-Vietnamese relations
On 15 January, newly-appointed Consul General Carlotta Colli was formally accredited in Ho Chi Minh City. The opening of the new mission is planned for March, in fulfilment of the initiatives that in 2013 marked the “Year of Italian Culture in Vietnam”, a cultural and promotional programme initiated by the Embassy in Hanoi on the 40th anniversary of the launch of diplomatic relations. The new mission will allow Italy to develop new inroads in an area undergoing rapid economic expansion within the context of a future ASEAN market of nearly 600 million people, alternative and complementary to the economies of China and the Indian subcontinent. Italy’s relations with Vietnam are growing steadily and have intensified remarkably over recent years, culminating with the signing in Rome of the 2013-14 Action Plan for the launch of a Strategic Partnership between the two countries concerning, in particular, the sectors of infrastructure, defence, energy, textiles, automotive manufacturing, fishing and agri-food.
Moreover, Vietnam is the focus of favourable trade agreements with all the countries of Southeast Asia and the other economies of the region (China, India, Japan and Korea): it’s enough to consider that 90% of Vietnamese products enter China duty-free.
Growth a foreign policy priority according to Bonino
Minister Bonino has been concerned with the reorganisation of the Italian diplomatic network for some time now. “If we could, we would keep all the missions and cultural institutes open”, but this “is not possible”, was the message the minister conveyed during the conference of ambassadors in December. “We can streamline in Europe, where Italian integration is greater, but we have to be there in those emerging nations and in those where things are more difficult for our businesses”, she added, explaining that “this is the criterion” for reshaping and reorganising the Italian diplomatic network abroad”. Italy, Bonino concluded, “has one priority that stands above all the others: that of growth” and, she added, “foreign policy must be placed at the service of this necessity”.