Italy becomes first G7 country to back Belt and Road initiative

Rome: Italy has become the first G7 country to endorse a debatable plan by China to build a Silk Road-style global trade network, irking its EU and US allies.

The Italian Prime Minister, Giuseppe Conte, and the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, have signed a non-binding memorandum of understanding (MoU) that could lead to Italy’s participation in China’s Belt and Road initiative (BRI), an ambitious project that envisages Chinese investment in a network of infrastructure projects connecting Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Europe.

The signing ceremony took place at Villa Madama, a Renaissance villa designed by Raphael, where Xi was greeted with full honours on the second day of a two-day visit to Italy.

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.

As the two countries celebrated, the US – which believes China is using the project to embolden its political and strategic clout – and the EU looked on with trepidation. The Dutch Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, warned Italy against “naivety”. “You have to take into account the possibility that China, through the policies, is also pursuing some of its national interests,” he told reporters in Brussels on Friday.

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