Speech by the Hon. Minister in Ancona at "The Farnesina Meets Companies" event
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Governo Italiano

Speech by the Hon. Minister in Ancona at "The Farnesina Meets Companies" event

Date:

05/29/2017


Speech by the Hon. Minister in Ancona at

(The authentic text is only the one actually spoken)

Ancona, 29 May

 

 

Dear Presidents Marcolini, Cataldi and  Ceriscioli (President of ISTAO, President of the Ancona Chamber of Commerce, President of the Marche Regional Council),

Dear friends and entrepreneurs,

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 stopping off in the Marche region, a land that has dealt so admirably with the economic and other damage caused by the earthquake. 

The economy of the Marche is solid, with a long agricultural tradition and an important tourist sector, as well as being strongly export-driven, which has contributed to the country's recovery after the economic crisis. 

Overall, between 2008 and 2016, Italian exports grew by 13% and, in 2016, Italy recorded exports of over 417 billion euros (around 25% of GDP) and a trade surplus of 51.5 billion. 

Even in the first few months of 2017, national export figures have been impressive: a year-on-year increase of 14.5% was recorded in March.

According to the Trade Performance Index (determined by the ILO and UNCTAD), Italy is the second most competitive country in international trade after Germany. In as many as 8 out of 14 sectors, Italy is in first or second place in the world in terms of international competitiveness. These figures contradict the narrative according to which our businesses would not be able to compete internationally. 

The latest Annual Report by Istat showed how the ability to open up to foreign markets, particularly during the years of the economic crisis, has been the key factor in ensuring the survival and competitiveness of Italian companies. 

The Marche region has contributed to these results, thanks to an excellent manufacturing sector that successfully combines tradition with innovation. Between 2009 and 2016, the value of exports from the Marche rose from 8 to 12 billion euros, an increase of almost 50%, which has allowed pre-crisis levels (12.4 billion euros) to be restored). 

In terms of export value, the Marche region is in eighth place in Italy, particularly thanks to key industries like medicines, footwear, household appliances and wooden furniture. In 2016, a 5.6% growth in exports was recorded, which gives us great confidence, but we know that a lot more can be done. 

One of my priorities in the field of economic diplomacy is to protect the "Italian brand", starting from the agri-food sector. There is a commitment to defending our geographical indications of origin, to combating the spread of Italian-sounding products and "food traffic light" policies, and action to protect intellectual and industrial property. 

More generally, economic diplomacy is contributing to fight protectionism, however disguised it may be, and to removing non-tariff barriers to our products, asserting our position in free trade agreements, engaging in battles at European level and in multilateral fora. 

I care about Italy's role in the world, which is why I believe in opening up markets, because, for an exporting country like ours, protectionism has never been the right answer. Italy depends on international trade for growth. 

Regardless of the rhetoric, the stakes are high, and entrepreneurs like you have to make an extra effort to defend free trade.  

I also believe in more Europe, not less Europe, because, in an increasing vast global market, without Europe we would be weaker. Europe helps us defend 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, international trade policies. 

It would be madness to leave the Euro now, because we must never 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 defended 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%. 

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, according to IMF forecasts, world trade is predicted to start growing again at a more sustained rate in 2017, in both emerging countries and advanced economies. 

Unfortunately, too many global investors have been obsessed with the "risks" of the Eurozone, forgetting about the "opportunities" the biggest 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. 

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. 

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 received the support of the diplomatic and consular network have produced more than 1% of GDP and 234,000 jobs, particularly thanks to their impact on the whole supply chain in Italy. 

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

But we can and we must do more! Some see geopolitical scenarios and their unpredictability as threats: but we must also seize the opportunities they create. 

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, the Situation Room for Internationalisation, co-chaired by the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and Economic Development, was created in 2011 for the very purpose of bringing public and private entities together to identify the markets and sectors on which to focus promotional resources, avoiding duplication and overlaps. 

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs contributes to this effort by making assessments of the overall geopolitical picture and the associated risks and opportunities, thanks to information and analyses from our network of Embassies. 

Information and analyses gathered thanks to our local contacts, which we use not only to draw up national promotional plans but also provide to individual companies who consult us with a view to devising their own effective internationalisation strategies. 

In this respect, if there is one invitation I would make it is to use us more and use us "first", i.e. in the initial stages of approaching a new market, so that we can advise and protect you, not "afterwards", when there are potential difficulties and disputes to be dealt with. 

Our doors are in fact 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, as well as to deal with disputes and overcome legal and administrative obstacles. 

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 ballpark view of Italian interests in the world has spurred 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, and that we have translated 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 also 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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