Chinese president signs trade deal with Italy despite USA pushback

24 Mars, 2019, 09:26 | Auteur: Anatole Charbonneau
  • CPEC route

In 2013, Xi unveiled China's planned Belt and Road project; its aim is to accelerate economic advancement and strengthen relations between Eurasian countries.

The signing of the agreement comes during Chinese President Xi Jinping's three-day visit to Italy in an attempt to improve relations with Rome as China is now engaged in a trade war with Washington. Italy's move appears to be driven partly by hopes that Chinese investment in Italy's ports might help revive the country's traditional role as a key link in trade between the East and West.

Italy signed deals worth 2.5 billion euros ($2.8 billion) during Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to Rome, Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio said on Saturday, adding that the value of the contracts could rise to 20 billion.

Italy is the first Group of Seven nation to volunteer for a role in the massive global program, with a memorandum of understanding that the two sides formally approved at the Renaissance-era Villa Madama in Rome on Saturday.

They also include an agreement between the ports of Trieste and Genova and the China Communications Construction Co.

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The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is aimed at bolstering Beijing's economic and political reach. European Union leaders in Brussels are preparing a strategy to counter the growing influence of China, which they describe as a "systemic rival".

Some Italian government officials were critical of the deals, anxious that Italy might be ceding national sovereignty in key strategic areas to Beijing.

"This is a very important day for us, a day when Made-in-Italy has won, Italy has won and Italian companies have won", said Di Maio, who signed the memorandum of understanding on behalf of the Italian government in a Renaissance villa.

"That is a good colonialization", he said.

Some governments including the U.S., Japan and India worry that Beijing is trying to build a China-centered sphere of influence that undermines their own sway, pulling developing nations into infrastructure "debt traps" that would give China ever-more control over their territories and economies. Some say the proposed improvements are too expensive for the impoverished countries. Xi said in a speech late past year that even as China moves closer to the center of the world stage, it will never seek hegemony.

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