Aug. 24, 2015

Hon. Federica Guidi

Saudi Arabia

Hon. Federica Guidi

Minister , Economic Development of Italy


The Hon. Federica Guidi was born in 1969 and has a degree in Law from Modena University and an MBA from Bologna. Currently the Minister of Economic Development of Italy, previous positions have included Vice-President of the Federation for Emilia Romagna Region from 2002 to 2005, President of the Young Entrepreneurs of Confindustria (Rome) from 2005 to 2008, President of Confindustria Young Entrepreneurs (Rome) from 2008 to 2011, and Vice-President of Confindustria (Rome) from 2008 to 2011. She has also served as Vice-President of Ducati Energia and Director of GMG Group, among other positions.

After visiting the Kingdom twice since September 2014, how would you characterize the importance of developing Italian-Saudi economic ties in relation to the Ministry's regional and even global mission?

Italy is the second-largest manufacturing economy in Europe and has a strong export performance. Italian exports have been growing consistently in past years and have a rising impact on GDP. The country's industrial basis, which mainly relies on SMEs, is large and diversified with a high innovation rate. When I visited Saudi Arabia in September 2014 and January 2015, I had the chance to appreciate how successfully the country has embarked on an ambitious path to diversify its economy and foster local entrepreneurship through SMEs and investments in human capital. I believe Italy and the Kingdom make ideal partners within a framework of long-term commitment and cooperation based on best practices sharing, technology transfer, training, and joint investments.

In 2014, there were over 60 Italian companies operating in Saudi Arabia, with investments totaling roughly $3 billion. How do you see Italian participation in the Saudi economy developing over the next five years?

Italian FDI in Saudi Arabia fall mainly under two sectors: infrastructure and energy. We boast a successful and decade-long partnership with Saudi Arabia in these domains. Within the EU, Italy is the largest importer of Saudi goods and the second-largest exporter to the Kingdom. Nevertheless, long-standing relationships always need new initiatives to keep pace with a changing reality. One of the main avenues for our bilateral cooperation in the future are joint investments in Italy, Saudi Arabia, and elsewhere across a wide range of sectors, including tourism, healthcare, and renewable energy. This will be the most promising way to give new impetus to our relationship with mutually beneficial results.

What major projects or initiatives are currently underway or planned to strengthen the economic relations between Italy and Saudi Arabia?

Exchange of high-level visits focused on our political and economic agenda, business delegations, scientific research programs, and joint pilot projects in high-value industries are the main leverages for boosting the economic relations between Italy and Saudi Arabia. These visits enrich the partnership, introducing new areas of cooperation and keeping it on pace with global trends. Nowadays, Italy is offering its foreign partners a more and more attractive business environment, not only from a legal point of view, but because of its strong economic fundamentals. Our business people firmly believe in internationalization, innovation, and global partnerships. I believe there is a huge potential for Saudi investments in Italy, especially in technology-intensive industries that are the backbone of the Kingdom's diversification plans. Unfolding this potential is part of our main focus and it will be the new frontier of our cooperation.

As Saudi Arabia strives to become a more knowledge-based economy, in which ways can Italian collaboration and technology help to achieve this goal?

Italy boasts a wide and advanced industrial basis with a major role for SMEs. Italian SMEs combine their unique district-based production model with innovative, global, and forward-looking production strategies. Most of them enjoy an outstanding export performance and represent points of reference for niche markets worldwide. Their products are found in the upper part of the global value-chain. They also have a major impact on job creation. I see great potential for our SMEs-based model as a way to promote entrepreneurial awareness in the Kingdom, foster the shift toward a knowledge-based economy, boost human capital, and combat unemployment among young Saudi people. Closer partnerships between Italian and Saudi SMEs can help the latter develop leading global technology.

What are the major short-term goals for the Ministry regarding Italian-Saudi economic relations, as well as your long term vision and strategy for this relationship?

In the short term, we are mainly working on bridging the “information gap” that is still preventing the Italian-Saudi economic cooperation from fully meeting its potential. This means fostering closer contacts between our business people, identifying pioneering projects and, in general, making investment opportunities in both countries better known. All countries suffer from misperceptions and stereotypes, and Italy and Saudi Arabia are not exceptions. When it comes to our relations, this means we need to move beyond oil and gas and open up new areas for joint initiatives. Once we make this step, I expect the Italian-Saudi cooperation to be an even more successful one as we can perfectly match Italy's longstanding expertise with Saudi Arabia's ambitious vision.