Carlo Calenda (Italian Vice Minister for the Economic Development)

L'accordo sul commercio tra Europa e Stati Uniti: in Italia siamo in buone mani

Jan 23, 2014 4755 ITA ENG

Carlo Calenda is the Italian Vice Minister for the Economic Development, and this is his first experience in politics. This column is not used to interview Italian political figures, but we perceive him as someone who is completely different from the Italian political standard. He is young and competent; he has already played an important role in the most successful Italian brand - Ferrari, BEFORE being called in politics, and not thanks of that (like almost always happens in Italy); he perfectly knows the world of Italian companies and their internationalization, which is essential for our country.

As we are sure that the American optimism dedicated to the pursuit of happiness is a fundamental lesson to import in Italy, we won't miss the opportunity to interview someone young and smart in the Italian institutions, far from the temptation to carry on the usual populist complaint. Italy has positive examples, and we ask them to talk about Italy and the United States: the fact of being able to find one as Vice Minister of the Italian Ministry of Economic Development is a fantastic news.

Vice Minister Calenda, you come from the business world: your previous role has been Director of Strategic International Affairs at Confindustria, the main organization representing Italian manufacturing and services companies. Which are the differences between the US and Italy in representing the interests of companies and enterprises?

The first consideration is that the comparison between two such profoundly different market economies and productive systems is complex, and perhaps misleading. Our model of industry association is based on the need to aggregate interests of a business system which is mostly made up of small and micro enterprises, while large American companies have in themselves the power of negotiation.

However, at the basis of the American system there is a deep respect for the will and the voice of the world of the enterprise. I think that this is a lesson that we should learn and make ours. We cannot continue to hide behind the stereotype that the cultural diversity and the uniqueness of our system does not allow to apply certain behaviors. A greater role in the process of establishing industrial policies should be given to the representation of our companies. In our country, the rules for making business are still too far from the needs of our entrepreneurs, having been for too long the policy itself "unstuck" from reality.

I imagine a process in which companies are who analyze the needs of the productive sector in which they operate, thus to be able to represent to the Government the necessities useful for the development, and to drive actions and interventions, following a "bottom up" process.

This is the direction towards I'm moving for the matters of my direct responsibility.

Europe is engaged in a difficult and important negotiation with the United States, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). Please tell us what is it, how is it going, and why it is crucial for Italy.

The TTIP is a trade agreement between two markets, the U.S. and the EU, which together have about 800 million consumers and cover almost half of global GDP.

These data may already help to understand the range of the agreement. For Italy, in particular, a recent study of the impact of the agreement estimates an increase of 8% for our exports. In some areas the positive impact would be greater, because of the ability of Italian companies to benefit from the removal of the existing barriers to trade. In the fashion industry the export would grow by 18%; in the mechanical sector the growth would be approximately 10%. According to the impact study, an ambitious conclusion of the agreement, with a tariff reduction and a significant dismantling of non-tariff barriers, could produce greater benefits in Italy than in other European countries. This is mainly because Italy is affected by non-tariff barriers which hamper our productions more than those of other European partners, resulting in a gap of competitiveness in the U.S. market. Priority areas of our exports also suffer from relatively higher excise duties - although contained, on average.

For the food segment – extremely important for us, there is also the fundamental issue of geographical indications to protect many of our products in the U.S. market, and particularly on this we will need a lot of effort in negotiating for our part.

The Government has recently presented the plan Destinazione Italia (We the Italians' magazine present two measures every week from the plan), to try to increase the very low share of foreign investment in our country. Can you please briefly summarize its content?

It's a 50 recommendations plan promoted by the Government: we don't need only investments, but also expertise and professionals. The measures act on different obstacles that make it difficult to invest talent or money in Italy: education, civil and administrative justice, taxation, cost of energy, and more. Some of these proposals have already been formulated in the Government Decree called "Destinazione Italia", approved last December: it contains measures to facilitate foreign investment and trade, including a clear and predictable tax system for multinational companies, incentives for expenditure on research and development and extension of opening hours of the offices of the Customs Agency to facilitate the movement of goods in and out of Italy, just to name a few.

For the internationalization of the Italian companies, an additional fund of € 22.6 million has been approved, thanks to the recovery of unused public funds. With it we aim to increase the efforts on quality and quantity promotion of Made in Italy in the world, reaching more target markets and expanding the number of involved sectors. An important step to support the internationalization of enterprises.

The first ambassadors of Italian exports in the USA are the Italian Americans, whose heart beats strong for our country, sometimes more than the heart of some who (still) lives in Italy. We always have the feeling that Italy has forgotten about their efforts, their achievements, them being the example of the success born when you combine the Italian creativity and ability to work hard with the dynamic and free environment of the United States ...

By the Italians in America we get an unrivaled lesson in creativity and dynamism. It is a demonstration of how great is the amount of energies we could deploy in Italy, if we knew better how support personal attitudes and entrepreneurial impulses.

You may be interested