Prime minister, António Costa, has set the country the target of lifting exports’ share of gross domestic product to 50% and described "attracting talent" as a collective challenge for the country.
Costa made these comments in a brief speech at the end of a reception for the Council of the Portuguese Diaspora, a body representing emigrants, at his official residence in Lisbon, that was also attended by the foreign minister, Augusto Santos Silva. He also announced that next July will see the first Congress of the Portuguese Diaspora.
“In recent years we have had a very positive cycle from the point of view of internationalising our economy,” Costa said. “Ten years ago our exports were 27% of GDP, today are 44% and the ambition we have is we can reach the next decade to 50%.”
The current year, he noted, was one “in which the most and most valuable investment contracts were signed, since the creation of AICEP”, Portugal’s Agency for Foreign Investment and Trade.
“After the deep economic and financial crisis that the country went through, indeed, economic recovery has been based on business investment and exports,” he went on. “The network of internationalisation is essential for the country’s future.”
In his speech, Costa admitted that, for a prime minister of Portugal, he as “ambivalent” feelings about there being so many Portuguese nationals in prominent positions in multinational corporations, prestigious foreign universities and international organisations, because the country must also have the objective of itself attracting top talent.
The Council of the Diaspora is very important, he argued, because “it is a way of being simultaneously inside and outside” Portugal. “We won’t be competitive unless we can recruit. Therefore, we must collectively make a great effort to attract talent.”
Among measures adopted in the current parliament, Costa highlighted automatic voter registration, which will allow another 1.5 million Portuguese nationals living outside the country to vote in elections.
The President of the Council of the Portuguese Diaspora, Filipe de Botton, thanked the government for its support for the council’s initiatives, in areas such as biotechnology, oncology and the external promotion of Portugal.
“So far, of the invitations sent to Portuguese living abroad to collaborate with us, none have been refused,” de Botton said.
At the reception offered by the prime minister to the members of the council were also three dozen of its members, among them the CEO of US multinational Amyris Biotechnologies, John de Melo, the director of external relations for Embraer, João Taborda, Morgan Stanley the vice-president Dormitília dos Santos, and the managing director of COTEC, Jorge Portugal.
Others present included the university professor José Moura (Carnegie Mellon University), the vice president of the World Bank, Manuela Ferro, the CEO of Montepio, Nuno Mota Pinto., and the managing director of the Council of the Portuguese Diaspora, Silvia Rodriguez.