The authentic speech is the text of the speech actually delivered
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I wish to thank President Cicchitto and the Associazione Riformismo e Libertà for inviting me today.
The issues being discussed at this Conference are the very essence of Government activity: labour, growth and development. These key words have always constituted the core of my political mission. They are concrete and vital issues that should always animate the political debate.
Let us begin with a fact: today our economy is back on track and even exports are growing. But we can and must do more!
More needs to be done to support the middle class that is the pillar of our economy and that has always been the hardest hit in difficult times and during economic shocks.
We need to do more for our young job-seekers who are our best investment, now not in the future, if we want to grow at a faster pace.
We must defend Europe, the common market and the euro, that ensure the best context for funding our growth. If we were to fail to do so, we would be taking a step backwards.
As you know, economic diplomacy is my top priority as Foreign Affairs Minister.
On 31 January last, together with the President of Confindustria Mr Boccia, I presented the results of an independent survey carried out by Prometeia on the impact economic diplomacy has on growth: economic diplomacy accounts for more than 1% of our GDP and has created 234 thousand jobs.
The survey confirmed that the Farnesina and its network of Embassies and Consulates assist above all the small and medium sized enterprises: 61% of the companies that have signed a contract or that have been awarded a tender thanks to our support are SMEs.
This is an important figure because the SMEs reflect the vitality and creativity of the middle class. And the SMEs I have met are very willing to invest in young people.
Economic Diplomacy led me on a mission to Milan and London in support of your campaign to attract banks, insurance companies, investment funds, businesses, European Agencies and Bodies, that are pulling out of London as a result of Brexit.
I then launched the initiative “The Farnesina meets businesses” because I realized that not all entrepreneurs are aware of what economic diplomacy can do for them.
And after Lombardy, I visited Piedmont, Friuli Venezia Giulia and this morning I was in Abruzzi.
I will continue to pursue this commitment with great determination because internationalization is a must for companies nowadays.
Companies can have huge opportunities: in 2016, foreign markets generated 417 billion euros of exports for Italy and a trade balance surplus of about 52 billion.
I constantly invite entrepreneurs to make a better use of the services offered by the Farnesina and by our Embassies and Consulates: to attract investments; to make investments; to expand exports; and conquer new markets.
This is a large “joint venture” with a leading role being played by the Situation Room for Internationalization, co-chaired by the Farnesina and the Ministry of Economic Development (MISE). The Situation Room is at the service of our companies: we work together to organize comprehensive missions abroad and to assist companies in priority markets.
I am convinced that we are all working in the right direction to bring about a change of pace of Brand Italy. Today, being able to anticipate and understand market trends ahead of time makes the difference between winning and losing. Our decisions, our responses must adjust to the pace of the times and become much quicker. This is where the Situation Room can help.
The task of economic diplomacy is to understand the expectations of Brand Italy and direct the decisions of our global interlocutors in the earliest stages of the process.
Economic diplomacy has also another crucially important role to play: defending and promoting the Italian spirit abroad, helping Italian companies to overcome the many legal but also political obstacles that hinder their progress.
And we must not forget that exports are a vital element in the Italian economic system. Indeed, the risks of protectionism make economic diplomacy even more important.
Italian diplomacy must work to ensure equal treatment for our companies. It is not acceptable that foreign companies find a level playing field in Italy while our entrepreneurs struggle to find their way into the same foreign markets where they come up against the rubber wall of bureaucracy or the denial of politics.
I always ask Italian Ambassadors to invoke all possible rules to protect the Italian spirit of our companies on conditions of reciprocity. We are in favour of international trade and do not want to discriminate against anyone, but we will not accept discriminations against us.
I would like to take advantage of the presence of Ministers Calenda and Lorenzin to break the news that – together with the MISE, the Health Ministry and the Ministry for Agricultural, Food and Forestry Policies - we will be devoting new attention to the issue of non-tariff barriers of a technical or phytosanitary nature that affect Made in Italy products.
For example, on 21 April at the Farnesina we will be holding an event against the food 'traffic light' labelling initiative launched in the United Kingdom and that runs the risk of spreading to other EU Countries (France and Belgium). The “traffic light” labelling (green, amber and red) pattern indicates the nutritional contents of products. Not only does this food label negatively affect Italian quality products like Parmigiano Reggiano and Prosciutto di Parma, but it also creates obstacles against the free movement of goods. On the Italian side this will get a “huge red light”!
This is a commitment that derives from our “faith” in free trade, believing as we do that protectionism is never the right answer. Especially for an exporting Country like Italy that relies on international trade for its growth.
At the same time we need to acknowledge that globalization has not been the same for everyone. Unequal opportunities have caused a loss of confidence of citizens in the political institutions producing – as a symptom -populism.
Slow growth and the migration crisis have worsened the situation: because inclusion policies become a “zero sum game” where the pieces of the pie are redistributed without enlarging it, hence creating conflicts.
But the solution is not less Europe, as populists want people to believe, but more Europe.
I therefore think that Europe should better exploit the potential of the Single Market, of the Economic and Monetary Union and of the international trade policies.
Because we must never forget that the Euro has secured the value of our homes, our savings and the pensions of our citizens. If we were to abandon the euro we would run the serious risk of halving the wealth of Italian citizens.
Not only has the euro shielded us from the financial crisis, but it offers very low interest rates that enable us to pay our mortgages and fund our growth. In the past, with the Lira, interest rates reached peaks of 20%.
I believe in free trade, but also in solidarity. This is why I have long since been saying that we need to protect the interests of the more vulnerable and of all those who for various reasons have been excluded from the benefits of globalization.
For every step forward taken by the ‘economic Europe’, the ‘social Europe’ needs to take at least two steps forward: we must double the policy objectives against unemployment, social exclusion and poverty, and double those in favour of youth and the middle class.
As I pointed out at the recent “B7” summit, the “Business 7” that brings together the leading entrepreneurs of the G7 Countries: too many global investors have been obsessed with the “risks” of the Eurozone and have forgotten the “opportunities” offered by the largest common market.
Another positive element: during the last three months, global trade has started growing again at a rate that had not been seen in seven years. Leaving rhetoric aside, the stakes involved are high. And also you entrepreneurs must make an additional effort to defend free trade!
I am not saying that risks have been eliminated, but they are more of a political rather than economic nature: the so-called “fundamentals” of European and Italian economy are improving.
The challenges are mainly political and they concern immigration and terrorism. Italy has reacted to these challenges with great determination, without equating immigration with terrorism, as populists do.
The results of the elections in the Netherlands and in Saarland have been encouraging. The moderate, centre and pro-Europe parties, that know how to deal with problems concretely, have held the stage. They can again win the elections in Germany, France and Italy. And winning against populism would mean a new wave of confidence in Europe and a new upward trend for the markets.
In Italy we need this type of confidence. And you know, even better than I do, that confidence is a decisive ingredient for growth: in particular, it would definitely loosen up the various forms of resistance of our banking system that hamper growth; loans would be made available for investments by companies and for consumption by households.