Economic diplomacy is the main focus of my action as Foreign Minister. Today I am in Latin America, first in Colombia and then in Brazil, on a strongly economic mission. Last week in Verona, the presence of a delegation of the Foreign Ministry at the Assembly of Confindustria confirmed the great teamwork done by Italian companies and the Foreign Ministry in supporting the internationalisation of our production system.
I appreciated the document with which Confindustria highlighted the success of the Extraordinary Plan for Brand Italy. I agree with the strategic importance of Business 4.0, both domestically and internationally. Together with Confindustria, the Foreign Ministry promoted an independent survey carried out by the specialised company Prometeia, in order to measure the results obtained by Italian diplomacy in supporting the internationalisation of enterprises.
The latest data reported at the 2m6 are unambiguous. They confirm that the assistance given by Italian embassies and consulates in the adjudication of contracts and orders to our companies has contributed to generating 1.4% of GDP and to keeping 307,000 jobs, accounting for almost 1.2% of the working population in Italy.
These numbers become all the more relevant in a cost-benefit analysis. In the same period, the Foreign Ministry’s effective budget amounted to 0.11% of the State budget, or 0.05% of GDP. If an expenditure of 0.05% had a return of 4.4% of GDP, this means that the funds allocated to the Foreign Ministry have a multiplier effect of 29: one euro of taxpayers’ money has generated 29 euros in terms of Italy’s growth. This diplomatic action has also contributed to Italian exports: in 2017 they were up 7.4% from 2016, touching almost 450 billion euros. Of course, the merit of this exceptional result must be attributed to the high quality of Italian products and technologies and to our companies’ growing competitiveness in the world. Italian exports have peaked at 30% of GDP and are forcefully driving our Country’s growth. In China, which I visited in December, our exports boomed in the first ten months of 2017: up 24.2% from 2016 (source: SACE). Ten days ago, I toured South-East Asia, a strategic market for our Country’s exports: our trade volumes with Indonesia is worth more than 3 billion dollars and has grown at an annual rate of 16%. In Thailand, Italian exports grew 7% in 2017. Not all companies are aware of what economic diplomacy can do for them. This is why, during my mandate, I have strongly promoted the “The Foreign Ministry Meets Companies” project. For the first time ever, a Foreign Minister systematically toured Italian cities and business districts to hear the needs of entrepreneurs and encourage them to fully exploit the potential of the Foreign Ministry’s network in the world, with its stock of information, analyses and contacts that can make the difference, especially in emerging markets that have a great economic potential but are geographically, linguistically and culturally distant from them.
As I see it, the Foreign Ministry stages a one-man show: it monitors the negotiation of trade agreements; it acts to remove non-tariff barriers; and it directly and systematically supports the action of Italian companies and especially SMEs, for which a networked support can really make a difference. When we read on newspapers that the Chinese market is opening to Italian cheese or that the obstacles to marketing Bresaola have been overcome in Japan, you must think that an articulate diplomatic work has been performed upstream, in which embassies, consulates and technical ministries have worked together with companies and trade associations to enable those products to be introduced in the different Countries concerned.
The effectiveness of our support action greatly depends on the capacity of single companies to report their problems in time, enabling us to intervene in synergy. Helping a business to export and develop an international dimension directly benefits the Country, as it conquers market shares from its principal competitors. The effort make by the Foreign Ministry and Italian businesses is so closely networked because our entrepreneurs are the Ambassadors of Italy in the world, insofar as they reveal and disseminate this Country’s beauty, creativity and points of excellence.