Allow me to address a warm welcome to all our friends from the world of business and especially to: President Arno Kompatscher (of the Autonomous Province of Bolzano); President Michl Ebner (the Chamber of Commerce of Bolzano); President Federico Giudiceandrea (of Assoimprenditori Alto Adige); the representatives of MISE, ICE, SACE, SIMEST, Prometeia and IDM Alto Adige (Local Promotion Agency); and to all those who have made this event possible.
I am very happy to be here in Bolzano. I am always spellbound by the extraordinary beauty of its landscapes, its architectural jewels and its castles.
Bolzano is a city of age-old traditions but with an eye always projected onto the future. An example of this is the research and innovation sector, thanks to the vitality of the university, the technology parks and the research institutes.
Beauty, culture, research and innovation are the features of Trentino Alto-Adige, one of the Regions among the richest of Italy and Europe, with a strong inclination for business and trade. It is no coincidence that the first streets in Bolzano, the throbbing heart of trade, was Via dei Portici, which continues to be the symbol of a city open to trade, to Europe and to the world.
I am convinced that Bolzano will interpret at its best the essence of the economic diplomacy that the Foreign Ministry has included in the “Italian Way of Life” programme: an integrated promotion effort – spanning across design, technology and cuisine – to upgrade and defend “Brand Italy” in the world, made of beauty, creativity and technological know-how.
It could be defined as the “wealth of variety”. It is what supported the Region’s exports in difficult times and what multiplies exports in times of growth, especially now that there is greater confidence in economic recovery: from agricultural products to machinery, exported to top-ranking markets like Germany, Austria, France and the USA.
A famous Trento-born Italian – Alcide De Gasperi – used to say that “politics means doing”. It is not too different from economic diplomacy: because economic diplomacy means helping companies to achieve their objectives at international level.
The idea of the Roadshow for internationalisation was launched in 2014. It is a joint effort between the Foreign Ministry, the MISE, ICE, Confindustria, Sistema Camerale (Network of Chambers of Commerce), the Conference of Regions, and all the public and private players that have at heart the future of our companies on the global market.
We realized that people had scarce knowledge of the players and instruments made available to Small and Medium-sized Enterprises.
This is the Roadshow’s 49th lap with more than 60 wonderful local companies present! Just think that, from 2014 to date, over 6,500 companies have attended this initiative!
The point is the following: some look at the geopolitical scenarios and the unpredictability that characterises them as a threat. Instead, we must seize the opportunities they offer.
The opportunities for companies are enormous: comprehensively, from 2008 to 2016, Italian exports rose 13%, representing up to 25% of GDP: they amount to more than 417 billion euros, accounting for a trade surplus of almost 52 billion. Exports have also been very positive in the first months of 2017, rising by 6.3% from January to April.
Allow me to mention three important steps that we accomplished over the years to gradually make the support provided to companies more effective.
In the first place, the Situation Room on internationalisation, which was established in 2011 and is co-chaired by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Economic Development (MISE), to facilitate the interaction between all the players promoting “Brand Italy”, both public and private, national and local.
The Situation Room is the “heart” of our system and contributes to the participatory definition of strategies and priority Countries for internationalisation-oriented activities.
Secondly, more resources have been earmarked for internationalisation than in the past: the Plan for the Extraordinary Promotion of Made in Italy has been allocated 380 million over the 2015-2017 three-year period, marking a real change of pace.
This year, the Situation Room introduced new priorities through the 2017 Promotion Plan, with focus on the Digital Economy, Industry 4.0, and on e-commerce, and with a very special attention on emerging markets.
Thirdly, a great effort has been made to put in place the “logistic” and “functional” integration of the Foreign Ministry and ICE: “logistic” because almost half of the ICE Offices are headquartered in our Embassies and Consulates; and “functional” because they are more closely coordinated, avoiding redundancies, for example concentrating in ICE the management of promotion funds.
I would like to be even clearer in answering the question: what does the Foreign Ministry do for companies?
To begin with, the Foreign Ministry makes available a network of more than 200 Offices, including Embassies and Consulates, in 126 Countries. Wherever we are, our doors are “wide open” for you: for you to conquer new markets; penetrate and expand in new markets; participate in tendering procedures; attract investments; make investments; and also in the case of litigation, and to overcome regulatory and administrative constraints.
This means making available to companies a heritage made of information, contacts and relations. Market intelligence and institutional support are the cornerstones of our action. Because our Embassies and our Consulates are the privileged interlocutors of local institutions and of the political, economic, and civil society circles in which they operate. And because our Embassies and Consulates have a comprehensive vision of Italian interests.
The Foreign Ministry is an “intelligent network” that interprets new global equilibria and the consequent changes in market trends. Now remember: especially in Countries at risk, it is very important to use the services of the Foreign Ministry’s Crisis Unit, by consulting the information on the www.viaggiaresicuri.it portal and registering your trip on the Website: www.dovesiamonelmondo.it.
Economic diplomacy offers tangible benefits to the economic system: this year, together with Confindustria, I presented an independent survey by Prometeia on the impact of economic diplomacy: tenders and contracts adjudicated to Italian companies that received the support of the diplomatic and consular network have produced 16.4 billion in value added, amounting to more than 1% of GDP.
But there’s more: the survey also allowed us to disavow the myth according to which the only ones that benefit from institutional support are large groups. Out of the companies that have won a contract or a tender through our support, 61% were SMEs.
Not only: this research confirms that SMEs also benefit from the support given to large groups, whose orders generate indirect effects along the whole supply and sub-supply chain, which involve smaller companies.
Recently I asked the economic diplomacy network to make and extra effort in the field of investments: on 13 June we organised an investor conference called “Invest in Italy” at the Foreign Ministry; on 8 July we organised the First Italy-Libya Economic Forum in Agrigento; and on 12 July we hosted the Western Balkans Summit in Trieste, also with a view to speeding up the large infrastructure and energy-related projects funded by the European Commission in our interest, connecting this area to Italy.
Still with a view to facilitating investments, the Foreign Ministry is making a continuing effort to improve “itself” and the “Country System”. For example: Business Visas are issued in 72 hours; there are new Start-up and Investor Visas and also 7 new Desks to attract investments (in conjunction with MISE and ICE) in Istanbul, London, New York, Singapore, Tokyo, Dubai, and San Francisco; and another 2 Desks to be opened shortly in Beijing and Hong Kong.
Improving “itself” and the “Country System” also means developing new Strategies in complementary fields such as:
- The Strategic Plan for the internationalisation of Universities 2017/2020: with the contribution of companies, to better merge training, entrepreneurship and access to the labour market.
- The Plan for Tourism 2017/2022: we want to continue attracting tourists to cities and to the most famous landmarks but we also want to promote less known destinations with great and yet untapped potential such as: rural areas, ancient hamlets, small and medium-sized sanctuary cities, nature and marine parks.
We must put all our energies at the service of Italy and the great beauty that it expresses. Bolzano and Trentino Alto-Adige are an extraordinary example of this beauty!
Let me conclude by expressing my conviction that economic diplomacy is worth much more than 1% of GDP, as I said before. Because economic diplomacy defends an open market economy, free competition and free international trade – the drivers of our economic system – against the upsurge of harmful protectionisms.
And allow me to wind up with the most important message of all: Embassies and Consulates are your “home” abroad. Take advantage of their assistance and they will help you build your future in the world!