Padua, 2 May 2017
(The authentic text is only the one actually delivered)
Mr. Marco Stevanato (Confindustria Padova's Delegate for internationalization)
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 here in the beautiful Veneto Region, where we can breathe a special air, that of an entrepreneurial spirit, that helps Italy grow and represents us in the world.
The Veneto Region has overcome the difficulties of these recent years and its economy has started growing again since 2015. A large proportion of its success stems from its actions on international markets.
In 2016 Veneto could boast a trade volume exceeding 100 billion euros, with exports totalling 58.2 billion euros ( 42.7% of GDP in 2015, up from 37.5% in 2010), a value which is nearly twice what the national figure is (Italy 28.2%).
Veneto accounts for 14% of national exports, second only to the Lombardy Region. Extraordinary manufacturing enterprises and top-quality machinery are the engines of the region's exports.
However the exceptional nature of this territory lies in the vast universe of small- and medium-sized enterprises that have no equals in their capacity to innovate, promoting a strong work ethic, a sense of family and community. These are the ingredients of success!
Recently I read about a conference that took place in the city of Padua.It was focused on the value of enterprises and their products and how they contribute to the history of a territory. It is a heritage that deserves to be preserved and told to stay alive in the hearts and minds of the future generations. Here we have a wealth of knowledge and excellence which has no equal in the world.
During the Renaissance, Padua was the cradle of a major scientific revolution which spread across Europe. Science, culture and enterprises are not separated worlds, as it is well known here in Padua. Enterprises represent the excellence of our creative industry and as such they are an important part of our image abroad.
Protecting the "Italian brand" is one of my economic diplomacy priorities. We must stay committed to defending our geographical indications of origin, to countering the spread of Italian-sounding products and "food traffic light" policies, and to protecting intellectual and industrial property.
More generally, economic diplomacy is an effective tool to stop the rise of protectionism, however disguised it may be, and to remove non-tariff barriers to our products, by asserting our position in free trade agreements.
I care about Italy's role in the world, which is why I believe in opening up markets. This is 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 increasingly wide global market, we would stand in a weaker position if we did not have Europe. Europe helps us defend our products in the world.
However, I also believe that Europe should make the most of its potential: the Single Market, the Economic and Monetary Union, and international trade policies.
It would be foolish to exit the Euro now! We should always remember 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 protected us against an economic crisis that could have been far more severe 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 the Eurozone confidence, which has risen to levels that haven't been seen in 10 years!
Still on a positive note, world trade has started growing again at a rate we have not seen in almost seven years.
Unfortunately, too many global investors have been obsessed with the "risks" of the Eurozone, failing to look at 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.
We must hop back on the "train of confidence"! Confidence, and you know it well, is a key element for growth.
I am here today with a twofold goal: 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 Farnesina. The demand for services from companies wanting to start an internationalisation process is growing. Foreign policy must be a tool to support them and sustain their economic growth.
Today, the Farnesina 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.
So far I have visited Milan, Turin, Udine and Pescara, but 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.
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!
Enterprises have exceptional opportunities. In 2016, Italy recorded exports for 417 billion euros with a trade balance surplus of 52 billion euros.
The Government is fully aware of the need to support our companies while on a course to internationalise. This is why an Extraordinary Plan to Promote Italian products was approved and 380 million euros allocated for the three-year period 2015-2017.
How can the Farnesina and its diplomatic-consular network assist you on foreign markets?
I would like to answer to this question by saying that our doors are 'wide 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, deal with disputes and overcome legal and administrative obstacles.
Economic diplomacy makes available to all companies an asset made up of information, contacts and relations. 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 overarching vision of Italian interests in the world has motivated 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. We have translated that into the "Italian Way of Life" integrated programme promoted by every component of our network around the world.
I will never grow tired 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. The Veneto Region is a superb example of it. And we must capitalise on this primacy to relaunch our economy.
But the most important message that I would like to leave with you today is that the Embassies and Consulates are your "home" abroad.