There is no doubt that the state-driven expenditure cuts are necessary in order to tackle the current economic crisis. For this reason, in last summer’s budget maneuver the Berlusconi government decided to abolish the Italian Institute for Foreign Trade (ICE), also known as the Italian Trade Commission. This government agency had until then provided assistance and consultancy services to Italian companies with a presence in foreign markets in over 80 countries world wide, as well as campaigning to promote Italian-made goods.
While there were differences of opinion on the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of the individual ICE offices, the agency’s total abolition was greeted with dismay by Italian companies who made repeated calls for an alternative solution to be found. These calls were heard by the Monti government and answered with last December’s “Save Italy” decree, which has partly reinstated the ICE with a remit as the Agency for the International Promotion of Italian Companies.

The new ICE is an agency with full legal personality under public law, subject to the steering and supervisory powers of the Ministry of Economic Development, which exercises those powers in consultation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Economy and Finance.

In carrying out its activities, the Agency works closely with Italy’s regional authorities, chambers of commerce, enterprise organizations and other affected bodies, both public and private. The guidelines and strategic direction adopted by the Ministry of Economic Development mean that the Agency has to achieve the following within six months:
– a reorganization of its offices, keeping only the Rome and Milan offices in Italy. The Ministry of Economic Development, the Agency, the regional authorities and chambers of commerce can draw up agreements on the future of the employees, assets and financial resources assigned to the other, closed offices;
– an overhaul of how trade fairs are promoted, in order to achieve savings of at least 20 per cent of the average annual spending on this activity over the last three years;
– a concentration of activities in promotion in strategic sectors and assistance to small and medium enterprise.

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