Italy not happy with the results from Belt and Road deal with China

Italy not happy with the results from Belt and Road deal with China


The controversial investment deal with China under the Belt and Road Initiative has failed to meet Rome’s expectations, Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani said on Saturday (2 September) ahead of embarking on a visit to China. The Italian Minister noted that trade between Italy and China has not improved as expected since Rome joined Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative four years ago. 

Speaking at an event, Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani said, “We want to continue to work closely with China, but we must also analyse exports; the Belt and Road Initiative has not produced the results we were hoping for.”

Tajani further stated that Italian exports to China in 2022 were worth 16.5 billion euros ($17.8 billion), whereas the figures for France and Germany were much higher at 23 billion and 107 billion euros respectively. 

On the issue of renewing the deal, he added, “We will have to evaluate, the parliament will have to decide whether or not to renew our participation.”

It is important to note that he made this remark at the European House – Ambrosetti which is an annual international economic forum, held in Cernobbio, Northern Italy. 

Apart from dissing Chinese investment at Ambrosetti, another striking part of his remark is the strategic timing. Evidently, it came shortly before the Italian Foreign Minister left for China for a three-day diplomatic mission. 

During his trip to Beijing, the Italian Minister will meet with Chinese authorities and prepare for a planned future visit by Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni. According to experts, during her visit, Meloni will confirm Italy’s exit from the deal. 

In fact, she recently said that she was planning to visit China on one of her next trips abroad.

As per the official timeline, the deal is all set to expire in March 2024, and by December 2023, Italy can formally withdraw from the accord otherwise it will be extended for another five years. But Rome’s stance indicates that the renewal of this controversial deal is highly unlikely.

The Italian government has given clear indications that it may soon withdraw from the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative and this could happen by mid-October. 

A former chief economist at the Italian treasury, Lorenzo Codogno recently claimed that an ‘in principle’ agreement has already been done with the Chinese authorities regarding the withdrawal from the deal. 

In a note, he said, “The withdrawal has likely already been agreed in principle with Chinese authorities. Meloni will make the official announcement during her state visit to Beijing, expected by mid-October, as a sign of respect for China’s leadership.” 

However, he added that the Italian parliament will have the final say regarding this issue.

If taken, the withdrawal decision will be a major diplomatic jolt to China as it has been a pet project for Chinese President Xi Jinping. 

Earlier, despite strong protests from the United States, the previous Italian government in 2019 became the first major Western nation and only G7 country to join this Chinese initiative which over the years has been exposed as nothing sort of neo-colonial tool and an elaborate debt trap.

Later, Former Prime Minister Mario Draghi froze the agreement and blocked large-scale Chinese investment in sectors that were deemed of strategic importance.


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