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Italian Leader Pitches U.S. Investors on His Country’s Future

Prime Minister Matteo Renzi wants investors to think of innovation and technology, not just good food and easy living, when they picture Italy. "The future is Italy. The future is not only American and Chinese," he said Wednesday at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. Renzi, who stopped through Silicon Valley before he ...

JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images
JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images

Prime Minister Matteo Renzi wants investors to think of innovation and technology, not just good food and easy living, when they picture Italy.

"The future is Italy. The future is not only American and Chinese," he said Wednesday at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.

Renzi, who stopped through Silicon Valley before he came to New York for the United Nations meetings on climate change, is attempting an ambitious overhaul of the Italian government to spur growth.

The 39-year-old former mayor of Florence said his challenge was to convince people that Italy not only has a history full of art and culture, but a future worth investing in.

"We love Italy. I think you love Italy," he said, to laughter from the audience. "This is the asset and this is the risk. I don’t know if we love Italy for the past, the present, or the future."

Renzi said Italy needs more open markets and less red tape to entice investors. He said the country should implement labor-market reforms, change the sclerotic parliamentary process, and make the court system more efficient. He said Italian courts take an average of nearly three years to resolve a civil case, compared to less than 100 days in other developed countries.

But change hasn’t been as swift as Renzi initially promised. He came to office in February with a 100-day reform plan, much of which hasn’t been implemented. Business leaders in Italy are growing impatient, worried that the young leader has gotten bogged down in the politics he was trying to fix.

Perhaps that’s why he’s moved on to pitching U.S. companies. He went to San Francisco Tuesday to visit Twitter, Yahoo, and Google — and to remind Italian expat entrepreneurs not to forget their homeland.

"I won’t lecture you about coming back to Italy. I ask you to go forward and we will do everything to change Italy, make it a more simple country, with a different jobs market, with a slimmed-down political class," he said Tuesday, according to reports in the Italian press.

On Friday, Renzi heads to Detroit to visit the offices of Fiat-Chrysler, the product of a recent Italian-American marriage. The CEO of the new trans-Atlantic automaker, Sergio Marchionne, said in May, however, that his company’s new headquarters would be in London, rather than Turin, Fiat’s former Italian home.

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