Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte confirmed on Friday that his government is considering a bilateral agreement with China in the context of the One Belt, One Road initiative (BRI).
Prior to Chinese President Xi Jinping‘s visit to Italy on 22-24 March, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte confirmed that his government is considering a bilateral agreement with China in the context of the One Belt, One Road initiative.
with the objective of signing a Memorandum of Understanding that anchors Italy to the BRI project.
“With all due caution, I think it can be an opportunity for our country,” Conte said. The Italian commitment comes with a promise of billions in investment while Italy is officially in recession.
Conte made his comments from the northern Italian city of Genoa, which for centuries has been at the heart of Italy’s global connectivity. Connectivity is the stated objected of the One Belt, One Road project, which Beijing hopes the project will link China by sea and land to Central Asia, the Middle East, Europe, and Africa, which will also include a multi-layered engagement in culture, technology, and science.
Italy is not the first European country to engage to sign a bilateral agreement with China as Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Greece, Malta, Poland and Portugal have all inked deal with the Chinese Communist Party. Italy, however, is the first G7 economy to consider this sort of deal.
Conte came only two days after the US criticised the One Belt, One Road initiative as a trojan horse that was “made by China, for China” and expressed its scepticism on whether the deal would have “sustained economic benefits” for Italy. Washington has also mulled slapping economic countermeasures against EU members who opt to side with the Chinese.
Conte, for his part, reassured those in attendance in Genoa that the Italian government is in constant contact with the Americans about Rome’s dealings with the Chinese.
China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi dismissed the US’ concerns and openly challenged Italy to sign a memorandum of understanding that would underscore the Italian government’s independence from Washington. “Italy is an independent country; we trust you’ll stick to the decision you have independently made,” Yi told the press in Beijing.
The US’ National Security Adviser Garrett Marquis responded to Yi’s chastising of Italy by called One Belt, One Road a Chinese “vanity project” that the Italians should steer clear of.