Luigi Di Maio (Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation)

Il rapporto con gli Stati Uniti: un punto di riferimento imprescindibile della politica estera dell’Italia, anche grazie agli italoamericani

Dec 15, 2021 1804 ITA ENG

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation is the home of our country's foreign policy. This glorious and historical Italian institution is in charge of the relations with other countries, with Italians around the world, and it is here that people are selected and strategies are decided to then represent Italy abroad, in the various diplomatic offices around the world.

It is therefore an honor for We the Italians to be able to conclude our tenth year of interviews by hosting the Minister of Foreign Affairs Luigi Di Maio, in charge of the most important Ministry for our main audience, Italian Americans and Italians born in Italy and then emigrated to the United States

Minister Di Maio, the diplomatic relations between Italy and the United States celebrated their 160th anniversary this year: it seems to us that this alliance is getting better and better…

There is a constant and constructive dialogue with the United States, and it could not be otherwise, given the strategic importance of our relationship and the challenges of the moment. On the occasion of my mission to Washington for the 160th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Italy and the United States, I was the first foreign government representative to be received in the American capital by the Biden Administration. This testifies to the vitality and the privileged relationship that binds Italy to the United States, confirmed by my numerous contacts with Secretary of State Blinken and most recently by the meeting we had last Saturday on the sidelines of the G7 Foreign Affairs/Development Ministerial meeting in Liverpool.

The relationship with Washington has been and continues to be an essential point of reference for Italy's foreign policy. There are many points of contact between our agendas and there is a strong coordination both in relation to the main theaters of crisis, from Afghanistan to Libya and Ukraine, and in relation to major global challenges. We are linked to the United States by the conviction that the answer to major global challenges lies in effective multilateralism. Multilateral engagement is central to our foreign policy and our mutual commitment to NATO security is strong.

Our bilateral relations also benefit from the presence in the United States of millions of women and men of Italian origin whose contribution to the growth of that country is widely recognized and appreciated; from numerous and dynamic exchanges between people, businesses, civil society and the academic and research world; from strong interconnections between our economies that range from the most traditional sectors to those of innovation, technology, and space.

What are the activities and opportunities for the two countries in the near future?

The American economy is a mature market that we must continue to monitor with new instruments, with the aim of increasing our market shares. For this reason, this year too the USA has been included among the priority markets for the export support and investment attraction policies of the Cabina di Regia per l'Internazionalizzazione. We have important opportunities to further develop the bilateral partnership, especially in high-potential sectors, such as innovation and technology.

In the monitoring that We the Italians has been carrying out for 10 years now on everything that involves Italy and the United States together, one of the most important aspects is innovation...

In the field of technology and in all sectors of innovation, bilateral cooperation between Italy and the United States is excellent and today assumes a strategic character. Our decision to create in San Francisco INNOV-IT, the first Italian Innovation and Culture Hub, is a testimony of this. In this way, we aim to promote new opportunities for growth and development for our companies and start-ups: the Hub will offer a high-tech showcase for the integrated promotion of our Country System, presenting Italian excellence operating in high-innovation sectors and hosting within its structure the offices of the Italian Trade Agency and the Italian Cultural Institute. It will also be an outpost to attract qualified investments to Italy and to expose our small and medium-sized enterprises to a particularly advanced innovation ecosystem.

In the space sector, then, I like to mention the strong relationship between our Space Agency, ASI and NASA, which represents for Italy the first bilateral strategic partner. This privileged relationship is also confirmed by the Italian participation in the "Artemis" initiative, the largest space program of the last decades, which will take mankind back to the Moon and which in the future could pave the way for the exploratory mission to Mars.

Fortunately, there are no more duties and trade with the United States has resumed well after the pandemic stop. Where are we, and what should we expect for the future in the area of supporting Italian exports to America?

For Italy, the United States is the first trade partner outside the European Union. Following the economic crisis, the interchange between Italy and the U.S. has undertaken a steady and rapid growth, from € 42 billion in 2014 to € 62 billion in 2019, further increased in the first nine months of 2021 with a growth of 12.3% compared to the same period in 2020. Also on the rise are Italian exports - in line with the general trend that sees Italian exports around the world making record volumes in these months even compared to the pre-pandemic boom of 2019 - and the value of reciprocal Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). The growing flow of US FDI towards our country is an indication of the interest and trust that American investors place in the Italian System.

One of the most important issues when talking about the export of Italian goods to America is that of Italian sounding. What can be done to protect Italian goods from this phenomenon, perhaps involving the Italian American community?

There are several actions we take to protect Italian products on the American market from the so-called "Italian sounding". Among the various levels of intervention, I would like to mention: communication and awareness initiatives aimed at local consumers and operators in the sector, with the goal of helping them to distinguish the original product and its added value; the assistance provided by our institutions abroad to Italian companies that face the criticalities of the phenomenon and take action to protect "truly" Italian products from their imitations; the action aimed at the full recognition and protection of Italian agricultural and food excellence in markets, such as that of the United States, where they lack special and reinforced protection.

Also on the side of the attraction of American investments in Italy there are great realities and perspectives, correct?

The United States of America, eighth foreign investor in Italy with a stock of € 16 billion, represent an extremely dynamic market for our country in terms of attractiveness. The USA is among the traditionally priority countries of the Italian strategy for attracting foreign investments. Already since 2016, two Italian Trade Agency Desks for the Attraction of Foreign Investments have been active, one in New York and one in San Francisco, and by 2021 three new Italian Trade Agency desks will be established in Houston, Chicago and Boston.

On a different topic, the Italian American community of New York was happy to meet you on the occasion of your participation in the United Nations General Assembly

When I came to New York last September, I had the opportunity to meet many representatives of the Italian community in its various components. People who have managed to integrate perfectly into the American social fabric and who contribute every day to making their host country great, in the most diverse sectors, from scientific research to art. We look to the Italian citizens in the United States on one hand to promote our country system and our language and culture in the United States, and on the other to invite them to look at Italy as a strategic partner also for our position within the European Union.

The Italian language has always been a fundamental instrument of communication and promotion, which this year also saw the exceptional celebration of Dante. The Italian community in the United States cares a great deal about its promotion and its teaching in American schools...

The Italian language is a true instrument of attraction for an America that looks at our country with ever-increasing interest and curiosity. Italy is, in fact, the second country of destination for young American students. Italian has a crucial role not only for our fellow countrymen living in the USA and for the over 17 million Italian descendants, but also for all those who choose to come to Italy attracted by its history, its art and its excellence, starting with Made in Italy. I would like to recall just a few figures relative to the commitment of the Farnesina to the promotion of the Italian language in America: 215,000 students of Italian in the country; two equalitarian schools in New York and San Francisco; contributions in support of 22 Italian language chairs in American universities; 6 Italian language lecturers in Boston, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Newark and Washington; over 140 events dedicated to Dante that our diplomatic-consular network and the Italian Cultural Institutes have organized on the 700th anniversary of his death.

Tourism is one of the most important aspects of the interchange between Italy and the United States. In the National Recovery and Resilience Plan, the Farnesina has included funds for the Year of Roots Tourism, an extraordinary opportunity especially for the South of Italy. How do you plan to promote this great opportunity?

In 2018, the flow of tourists from North, Central and South America to Italy was about 6.5 million. ENIT, the Italian National Tourism Agency, estimated that, of these, 11% fell into the category of "root tourism". The Farnesina has focused on this tourism, presenting a project included in the National Recovery and Resilience Plan that will be launched in 2022, culminating in the year of "Roots Tourism", scheduled for 2024. The "Roots Tourism" combines the proposal of goods and services of the third sector with the knowledge of the family history and culture of origin of Italians living abroad and of Italian descendants. Let's not forget that the catchment area of people of Italian origin living all over the world is close to 80 million people: an undisputed added value for Italy, on which the Farnesina wants to focus.

It is with this scoop that calls for 2024 as the year of Roots tourism that we conclude the interview, thanking the Minister of Foreign Affairs and hoping to meet all Italian Americans in 2024 here in Italy.


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