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Interview with Mr Vincenzo Boccia, Confindustria's President

Interview with Mr Vincenzo Boccia, Confindustria's President

(Q1) Italy and the countries of the Mediterranean area, in particular the Maghreb countries, have committed themselves to an exceptional partnership. How does this commitment translate into an economic level?

The Mediterranean is a priority in Italy's economic and commercial relations and one of the main market destinations for Italian companies. It is no coincidence that in 2018 our country's trade with the area continued to increase, exceeding 55 billion euros. There are also important complementarities between the Italian production system and that of the Maghreb countries, which make the basin an important outlet market for our exports and a fertile ground in which to invest and operate. Finally, it should be remembered that, according to the SRM report of 2017, around 3,500 Italian companies operate permanently or have significant participation in local companies in the countries of the "enlarged Mediterranean", with a significant presence particularly in the Maghreb countries

(Q2) How do you see the contribution of Italian entrepreneurs to the diversification and modernization of the Mediterranean economy?

Italian entrepreneurs who have been investing over the years in the markets of the southern shore of the Mediterranean have done so with the broader objective of creating added value directly in the countries of the area, following the logic of "co-development". The collaborations and partnerships launched on the spot by our companies - a symbol of excellence, with enormous potential in terms of innovation capacity and know-how transfer - also respond to particularly ambitious challenges such as those related to employment and sustainable development in response to many economic and social needs that emerged during the Arab springs. We like to recall the contribution offered by some of our associations, such as those for leather, textile, and marble processing machines, which have created in Africa training centers to teach local staff how to use advanced production technologies so that they can find employment in local businesses.

(Q3) What do you think of the co-location model and what role could play in the economic development and industrial policy of the two parties that adopt it?

Confindustria is convinced that the collaboration within the Mediterranean region must increasingly be directed towards the industrial partnership formula; a partnership aimed at enhancing the collaboration between the companies of the two shores and which is oriented to a "win-win" logic. The co-location model plays a fundamental role in the consolidation of these collaborations and serves to ensure greater economic integration through the development of transversal chains able to strengthen the existing ties between our countries, not only from an economic perspective.

(Q4) Which sectors do you consider most likely to be the driving force / locomotive of a strategic partnership between Italy and other countries in the Mediterranean region?

The opportunities that Italian companies can seize in the region are manifold and concern a plurality of sectors. Among these, the energy sector, and in particular renewable energy, given the enormous production potential of the Southern Mediterranean countries and the Italian supply of energy technologies, energy efficiency, and the sustainability of production and territorial systems. The development of important infrastructure projects aimed at ensuring greater interconnection between the various countries of the area, projects involving the main companies in the sector, is of particular interest too. Strategic are the ICT and telecommunications sectors, as well as mechanics, with particular regard to agriculture and textiles, taking into account the fact that North Africa represents an important hub for exploration of the Sub-Saharan market.

(Q5) What is the role of Italy and in particular of CONFINDUSTRIA in the development of relations and industrial policy following the post Cotonou agreements?

The renewal of the partnership agreement between the EU and the African, Caribbean, and Pacific countries - signed in Cotonou in 2000 and coming to an end in 2020 - is an important opportunity to reshape the relations between the parties, towards in particular. In this framework, Italy can and must play a leading role by proposing strong strategies and positions. On the other hand, we must not neglect that our country is among the first contributors to the European Development Fund, the main financial instrument on which the Partnership is based. Confindustria has paid particular attention to the discussions undertaken in the negotiation phase in order to enhance the strategic contribution of the business in the context of future partnership scenarios, working together with the German and French counterparts BDI and MEDEF to define a joint position in within BusinessEurope. In this sense, Confindustria is strongly committed to supporting the adoption of a new Agreement that will lead to the strengthening of relations between Europe and Africa so that they enter a new phase of unprecedented cooperation: a new bond based on mutual benefits, supported by adequate tools that generate a leverage effect on investments by reducing their risks and enhancing industrial partnerships as a key factor to seize the opportunities of African, Caribbean and Pacific countries in a co-development perspective.

(Q6) What is CONFINDUSTRIA's contribution to the increase in Italian investments in the Mediterranean?

In 2017 the Italian FDI stock to the MEDA Area exceeded the record figure of 45.5 billion euros. In this context, Confindustria - which represents the main association of manufacturing and service companies in Italy, with an association network of over 150 thousand companies for a total of about 5.4 million employees - plays a fundamental role in aggregating and support Italian companies towards their internationalization. The internationalization process means here "light" internationalization, concerning commercial exchanges, or "heavy", referring to Foreign Direct Investments.

(Q7) How can CONFINDUSTRIA help and promote women and young entrepreneurs as well as start-ups to improve the internationalization and construction of bridges between Europe, the Maghreb and the Mashreq?

In line with the objectives of the 2030 agenda, Confindustria actively supports the empowerment of women, which must necessarily result in an increase in female participation in the workforce and in the promotion of talented women in managerial and managerial roles. We are convinced that young people should be put at the heart of public policies, by guaranteeing their access into the world of work and strengthening their entrepreneurial skills through the support we can provide to innovative start-ups in terms of financial instruments, consultancy but also through the sharing of national and international commercial networks and channels. In this sense, internationalization must go through a process of empowering women and boosting young people; two themes that fall within the priorities of Confindustria and that are at the center of the Pact for the Factory, the inter-confederal agreement signed together with the Italian trade unions. The progress of young entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs in the world of work is an essential element in order to make the Mediterranean a dynamic area of ​​shared growth and prosperity.

(Q8) What impetus would you like to give to CONFINDUSTRIA's relationships with other confederations of companies in the MED region?

Confindustria intends to strengthen the existing collaboration between the various associations in the area. A collaboration that, since the establishment of BUSINESSMED, has reached an unprecedented intensity and is about to become unique internationally.

We need to invest more and more in the relationships between our associations, which are essential to reinforce the integration between the economies and promote strategic partnerships between the associated companies, helping to bring Italy and the MENA countries closer. The dialogue with the other "Employers’ Confederations" must aim at the development of wide-ranging economic collaborations, which have the courage to look at the entire African continent - among the developing regions with rates of return on foreign investments among the highest - where a structural transformation is underway and where GDP should grow on average by 4% in the next five years. Together, Italian and Mediterranean companies can significantly contribute to the economic growth of African countries.

(Q9) To what extent and how do you think that regional federal organizations like BUSINESSMED, of which CONFINDUSTRIA is a member, can help you?

BUSINESSMED represents an important carrier that allows consolidating the relationships between homologous organizations belonging to an extended and particularly heterogeneous geographical area. BUSINESSMED is, therefore, a privileged platform thanks to which Confindustria can intensify the dialogue with the associations of the area and, through them, also with the institutions and companies of the respective countries. Over the years this organization has established itself as an important interlocutor of the European institutions able to bring to Europe the voice of a plurality of associations and companies, all united by a common objective: that of growth, above all economic, of the entire area. From this perspective, BUSINESSMED and the associations that are members become the ideal subject for the realization of joint projects. Last but not least, the role of BUSINESSMED becomes crucial in the perspective of dialogue with African countries and with regional existing organizations in the Continent.

(Q10) What are the current and future challenges and opportunities for the organization, particularly in the Industry 4.0 sector?

In the digital era characterized by important and constant technological and economic transformations, Italy continues to play a leading role. The Italian manufacturer still occupies the seventh position in the world for added value, the fourth for production diversification, the second for export competitiveness and shows an investment rate that is higher than that of the main European competitors. The strength of Italy is particularly significant in high value-added sectors, in which we boast a consolidated leadership, such as those of tool mechanics, robotics, automation, and digital innovation. To strengthen our competitiveness, we need to promote partnerships in those strategic foreign markets, especially in the Mediterranean area, which have chosen to launch industrial redevelopment plans. Thanks to these partnerships great “champions” can be born, which will not only be Italians but “Mediterranean champions”, even more, competitive internationally.

2 December 2019
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