PORTUGAL - Diplomacy
Italian Ambassador in Portugal,
Carlo Formosa graduated in political science from LUISS University and started his diplomatic career at the Directorate General for Economic Affairs. He later worked at the Italian embassies in Hanoi and Tehran. After his return to Rome, he was appointed chief of cabinet of the directorate general for Mediterranean Countries and the Middle East. In 2007, he was promoted to embassy counsellor and then appointed director of the department for the Near East and Peace Process. He also coordinated the political activities of the Italian Permanent Representation to the UN in New York. Formosa returned to Italy in 2013 to be appointed chief of cabinet of the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs. He then held several positions including deputy director general for the promotion of the Italian system abroad and director for internationalization. In 2017, he was appointed executive vice president, director of international relations of Leonardo S.p.A and in 2020 Ambassador of Italy in Portugal. In 2009, Formosa was awarded the honour of Knight Officer of Merit of the Italian Republic.
Portugal and Italy have found even more areas in which to cooperate and build stronger ties, including in renewable energy and tourism, for example.
How would you describe current bilateral relations between Italy and Portugal?
Relations between Italy and Portugal are based on a solid friendship between the two countries and on an alignment of views that is reflected in the coordinated and convergent action carried out by our two countries within the EU and in the main international fora. In the last two years, there has been an unprecedented strengthening at all levels of the already excellent relations. An indicator of this qualitative leap is the number of institutional visits: 11 members of government visited Portugal. The economic and trade indicators also clearly show this new stage in relations. In 2021, bilateral trade increased from EUR5.9 billion in 2020 to a record value of more than EUR7 billion, an increase of 19%, even surpassing the EUR6.8 billion in 2019. In 2021, our exports rose by 17.8%, allowing us to maintain our position as Portugal’s fifth-largest supplier and to obtain a surplus of EUR1.3 billion. Our imports from Portugal also grew in 2022, proving the complementarity and mutual attractiveness of our markets. Investors from both countries are looking with growing interest at the opportunities that their respective production systems can offer and are developing projects in various sectors. At the end of 2021, Italian company Kerakoll invested more than EUR11 million in a production plant in the north of Lisbon, while, during the same period, the Portuguese utility EDP announced the launch of two 70-MW wind farms, bringing the company’s installed capacity in Italy to 385MW. More recently, Endesa, a subsidiary of Enel, won the tender for the green transition of Pego power plant, the country’s last coal-fired plant. This renewed focus on Portugal by Italian companies and investors is also accompanied by the choice of professionals, digital nomads, researchers and families, who, attracted by the quality of life of the fourth-safest country in the world, are increasingly supporting the growth of the Italian resident community here, which has now exceeded 21,000 people.
What specific sectors of the Portuguese economy can Italians support?
The two economies offer great potential for collaboration, and there are complementarities in many sectors, also due to the structure of the industrial system of both countries, mainly composed of SMEs. The areas in which Italian expertise, technology, and creativity can contribute to the Portuguese economy include both traditional and emerging sectors linked to the twin transitions—energy and digital—and the EU Recovery Funds. Among the sectors in which relations are already consolidated and new spaces for cooperation may emerge include automotive, textile, footwear, and construction. In areas related to the twin transitions, Italian companies can provide a valuable contribution regarding decarbonization technologies, renewable energies, the digital sector, and ICT. Opportunities are emerging also in relatively new sectors including pharmaceutical and biomedical, real estate/tourism, and the blue-economy, which is particularly relevant in view of the UN Ocean Conference taking place in Lisbon.
As the head of the mission, what is your main target set in your 2022 agenda?
The objective I have been pursuing since my arrival has always been to stimulate the already excellent bilateral relations in all their aspects. This means involving both the entire Italian Institutional and entrepreneurial system present in Portugal—including the Italian Institute of Culture, the ICE Agency and the Italian Chamber of Commerce for Portugal—as well as the main Portuguese players in the economic-commercial and cultural sectors. This creates a virtuous collaborative network that will surely increase the Italian interest and knowledge of this extraordinary country. In the economic-commercial sector, I will continue the activities already implemented, whose positive results are reflected in the statistics of bilateral trade and investment, placing Portugal even more in the spotlight of the Italian economic system. I am sure that this increased attention toward Portugal will enable our companies to know the country better and fully understand its great potential in terms of trade and investment opportunities.
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