H.E. Andreas Ferrarese, Ambassador of Italy to Pakistan
Author : Raja Aamir Mahmood Bhatti
Q: How do you see the relationships between Pakistan and Italy?
A: It is a matter of great satisfaction that both our countries enjoy very cordial relations, since establishment of bilateral ties some seven decades ago. It is rare that two countries would have such a long history of relations with absence of differences or disagreements. Italy and Pakistan have a great unanimity of views on several issues of global importance as well as continued cooperation in political, trade & commerce, educational and cultural sectors. I shall dedicate my energies to further enhance collaboration between the two countries in all the fields.
Q: What do you suggest to Pakistani investors? Do they have investment opportunities in Italy?
A: While Italy remains an active investor in Pakistan, we highly encourage Pakistani companies and businessmen to invest in a number of sectors in Italy. Italy offers lucrative investment opportunities as it has a domestic market of 60 million people as well as direct access to the composite market of 500 million Eurozone.
Pakistani companies may invest in the manufacturing sector of Italy which is the second largest manufacturing economy of Europe, fifth largest globally and ninth largest exporter of the goods in the world. By investing in Italy, Pakistani companies could profit from latest technologies and expertise in important sectors like food, fashion & design and robotics. Another benefit of doing business in Italy is the availability of skilled workforce in various manufacturing sectors, that too at a lower cost as compared to other Eurozone countries.
Italian universities have become one of the most favorite educational destinations for Pakistani students
Italy ranked 10th on “FDI Confidence Index” in 2018 which reflects our resolve to facilitate investment in our country through a number of incentives being offered to foreign investors. For example, Italian Trade Agency would take care of full investment cycle for satisfaction of investors.
Last but not least, Italy offers investment opportunities in a large number of sectors that could attract Pakistani investors, such as Agri-food, Consumer Goods, Real Estate, Chemical & Pharma, Fashion & Design and Machinery.
Q: How many Italian companies are active in Pakistan and on which sectors they are doing business or keen to invest in Pakistan?
A: Currently, we have companies in the sector of hydrocarbon in engaged in exploration as well as provision of LNG. We have also companies in pharmaceuticals sector, as well as in the Energy Sector. This list is going to grow, because more and more companies, in the automotive sector, are eager to make their way in a huge market of mass transportation like Pakistan.
Q: What would be the future of economic ties in terms of trade between our countries?
A: While we have seen a rise in bilateral trade in past few years, I still see a lot of room for improvement. I feel we could easily reach the mark of $ 4 billion bilateral trade and I would be dedicating my energies to achieve this goal in coming years. I very much look forward to strengthen the commercial offices in the Embassy and in the Consulate in Karachi so that we may work at the required pace to enhance the trade ties between our two countries.
Q: What is the volume of trade between Pakistan & Italy and what kinds of goods have trade between the two countries?
A: The economic ties between Italy and Pakistan have been witnessing an unprecedented development in the last few years, with an increasing trade exchange which has reached 1.45 million euro in 2018 1.42 million euro in 2019, growing steadily from 2015. The increase in trade flows is particularly evident in the aftermath of the GSP plus (Generalized Scheme of Preferences) signed with the EU, in force since January 1st 2014. This agreement, supported by Italy at the European level, entitles Pakistan to tariff exemptions on three quarters of its products, in exchange for ratification and implementation of the 27 major international conventions on labor rights, environmental protection and governance. Starting in 2014, the annual value of Pakistani exports to the European Union exceeded six billion euro, according to sources from the European Commission. We are confident that this tool will continue playing a key role in enhancing trade relation between Pakistan and Europe in general, and with Italy in particular.
Italy offers investment opportunities in a large number of sectors
Some data can describe the positive trend of our economic links. In 2015 our commercial exchange has increased of 8.3%, 44.7% in 2016, and 26.8% in 2017, according to the figures of the Italian Trade Agency – ICE. Still in 2019, in a context of a general contraction of international trade, the commercial exchange managed to increase, even if lightly, bringing Italy among the top ten exporting countries to Pakistan, (fifth in Europe). Right now, even though our trade flow has experienced a slowdown due to the current pandemic, Pakistan is our twelfth partner in Asia, with an overall trade–to date-of more than 675 millions of euro.
Almost 60% of Italian exports towards Pakistan is made up by machinery for textile and agriculture, and by components for the automotive sector. The remaining part includes chemical products, medicines, pharmaceutical preparations, while over 80% of the Pakistani exports towards Italy consists of textiles and clothing.
Q: Italy is growing its economy in the agriculture field. Do you think Italy can help Pakistan to develop its agricultural sector further with latest technology and modern techniques?
A: Agriculture remains the imperative part of Italian economy, providing livelihood to hundreds of thousands and contributing to our market. Over the years, this sector has been revolutionized through R&D and adopting modern techniques. A number of Pakistanis are currently employed in agri-food industry in Italy.
One of my goals during my posting in Islamabad is to boost Italian cultural presence in Pakistan
Given the potential of Pakistani agriculture sector and the volume of Pakistani market, I see numerous possibilities of cooperation in this field. Pakistani farmers can benefit from advanced Italian technologies to enhance their production. The same goes for livestock and dairy. We can help them with our expertise convert raw materials-to-value added commodities. For example, a liter of milk could be worth a hundred rupees but one kg of cheese would sell for some three thousand rupees.
I have learnt that olive orchards have been successfully grown in various parts of Pakistan and now they are producing olive oil locally. By giving due attention to olive sector and producing edible oil here, Pakistan could reduce their import bills significantly. Moreover, olive products could be exported as well to gain the much needed forex. Italy has been, and shall happily be assisting Pakistan in olive sector by sharing our expertise and knowledge.
Pakistan should focus also on international markets for export of their agri and dairy products as country has huge capacity and there is always a demand of quality products in the global market. By increasing agri/dairy exports, Pakistan could not only gain significant forex but also raise the living standards of millions of people involved in this sector. I would also mention the important activity of UNIDO and Italian Development Cooperation in dairy sector.
It was my dream to come to Pakistan as an Italian Ambassador
Q: What are possibilities for Pakistanis students to take up their studies in Italy?
A: It is a matter of pleasure to share that Italian universities have become one of the most favorite educational destinations for Pakistani students over past few years. More and more Pakistani students are getting enrolled at prestigious Italian institutes such as Politecnico di Milano, Politecnico di Torino and La Sapienza, to name a few. Economics, Architecture, Engineering, Computer Sciences and Communication Sciences are among the most sought fields of studies for Pakistani students.
The Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP)- an international research institute for physical and mathematical sciences that operates under a tripartite agreement between the Italian Government, UNESCO, and International Atomic Energy Agency- in the name of the eminent Pakistan scientist Dr. Abdus Salam, offers numerous placements to Pakistani students and scientists every year.
Q: How we can improve the diplomatic relations through cultural diplomacy?
A: Cultural Diplomacy is one fine aspect of a broad-based relationship among countries. One of my goals during my posting in Islamabad is to boost Italian cultural presence in Pakistan through various mediums. We would like to improve Italian language teaching facilities here. Exchange of cultural groups is another effective way and we shall try to invite more people (artists) than before to share our culture with our Pakistani friends. We are also planning to show Italian cinema with collaboration of local cultural and academic institutions. Very recently we have discussed the possibilities of cultural collaboration with Lahore Arts Council (Alhamra) and we would be doing the same with other cultural and educational institutions to increase our collaboration in these fields.
Q: On which sectors during your services in Pakistan you would focus more in order to strengthen the bilateral ties between the two countries?
A: Our target is to promote Italy as a point of reference in Europe. We will invest our energies in promoting increased bilateral trade and closer cultural exchanges.
Q: What is the estimated number of Pakistanis who are living/working in Italy and what role they are playing?
A: We have some 150,000 Pakistanis living in Italy. Most of them moved to Italy several years ago and I am pleased to share that many of them are proud dual citizens, Italian and Pakistani, now. Majority of Pakistanis in Italy are living in North. Pakistani community in Italy has been an important part of services sector and they have been contributing to the economy of the country. They also play an equally important role for Pakistan by contributing to the economy through forex remittances they make every year.
Q: Italy is one the main destination of human smugglers. What role Italian government is playing to stop illegal human trafficking and is there any coordination between Italy and Pakistan to take action against human smugglers?
A: Italy, like any other responsible state, takes this issue very seriously, and we take all measures to curb this menace of human trafficking. Italy enforces all the international treaties and agreements on the subject and there is no clemency for those involved in these heinous activities of human trafficking by exploiting vulnerable people and putting their lives in danger. We are part of all coordinated efforts to curb this evil and our commitment remains unwavering, always.
Q: What is current situation of Covid-19 in Italy and how Italy is fighting against pandemic?
A: As you are aware that Italy was one of the countries hit by Covid-19 in the very beginning of outbreak and very heavily. Our government took numerous serious measures since then. Large numbers of tests were performed on public and extensive lockdown was imposed to curtail the spread of the virus. Thanks to tenacious fight put up by our health professionals, situation was controlled and things returned to near-normalcy in summers.
Now, we are facing second wave of the Covid-19 as many other countries in the world. Our health professionals have knowledge and expertise to handle any untoward situation. Masses have got the knowledge of precautionary measures and though a coordinated effort of the government and public we very much hope to pass this phase without seeing any unfortunate situations.
On December 27, the vaccination campaign began and restrictive measures were applied throughout the Italian territory during the end-of-year holidays and we await updates in the coming days.
Q: What message would you like to give to the people of Pakistan?
A: I must share with you that it was my dream to come to Pakistan as an Italian Ambassador. This dates back to times when I was involved in projects of economic cooperation between Italy and Pakistan, some 26 years ago.
It is a matter of pride and pleasure for me to represent the Italian Republic in this beautiful country that has a long history of cordial relationship with my country. I wish to thank all Pakistani authorities and friends who have always been supportive, particularly during the difficult times Italy faced at the peak of Covid-19.
I very much look forward to work closely with the government of Pakistan, engage with business communities in a more productive way, as well as with the people from academia, cultural side, health, media, and other walks of life to bring the two countries closer than we are, and to achieve new milestones that would actually reflect the true friendship between the two nations.
Pakistani women are cordial, welcoming and energetic
Mrs. Albana Ferrarese, wife of Italian Ambassador
Q: How you found Pakistani women?
A: Well, I must say Pakistani women are cordial, welcoming and energetic. I have found them performing active roles in different walks of life including businesses. I am surprised to see entrepreneurship skills of Pakistani women and the way they are utilizing them for the benefit of society.
Q: What’s your opinion about Pakistani culture, ladies’ dresses and food?
A: Here, we talk about one of the oldest and richest civilization in the world. Pakistani culture is a beautiful blend of many cultures and I am quite involved in it by now.
Talking of dresses, they are simply wonderful. You have got a variety of fabrics and then they are complimented with amazing colors that give you message of joy freshness. I really like Pakistani dresses.
We have been eating Pakistani food since we have arrived. Not only we like it, but my husband, who is a very good chef by the way, is planning to develop some dishes by fusion of Italian and Pakistani recipes.
Q: How would you express your views about capital city Islamabad and tourism opportunities in Pakistan?
A: Islamabad, at first sight gives you a feel of calm. Its greenery is matchless. I see that town has been planned with great attention and it caters the needs of a modern Capital. I am fond of Margalla hills and historical pockets of the Capital such as Saidpur village and Shah Allah Ditta caves.
These are natural tourist attractions among others and I am glad to see that authorities are working on promoting tourism in the twin cities. Sightseeing buses have started operations in the twin cities and I look forward to enjoying them soon.