Italy will clarify doubts over the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) connecting three continents to reach a consensus, said Michele Geraci, a senior Italian official.
The BRI is a very important initiative that could potentially have several beneficial effects on the development of Asia, Africa and Europe, he said.
“We have been in touch with our American and European partners, explained to them the reasons why we sign the memorandum of understanding (MOU) and I think that, little by little, more and more people are beginning to see the benefits,” Geraci, under-secretary of state for the Italian Ministry of Economic Development, said over the weekend.
Italy plans to sign an agreement with China this week to join the BRI, making it the First G7 Nation to take part in this initiative.
The move has sparked criticism in Western countries. White House National Security Council spokesman Garrett Marquis was quoted in earlier media reports as saying that the BRI was unlikely to help Italy economically and could significantly damage the country’s international image.
At the beginning there is always some uncertainty. The content of the MOU was not disclosed to the public and naturally many commentators raised doubts, Geraci said.
“I am very happy, however, that despite these difficulties we managed to clarify all issues and reach a consensus,” he added.
The BRI is an important international public good that China contributes to global cooperation for common development. China and more than 150 countries, regions and international organisations have signed BRI cooperation agreements, resulting in more than $6 trillion in cumulative trade between China and participating countries, the Xinhua News Agency reported in February.
Geraci said the BRI is very important for Italy, which wants to improve trade relations with China, and local companies have expressed their desire to do more business with the world’s second-largest economy.
“We hope this MOU will lead to more business activities, both in terms of trade and investment,” he noted.
Further bilateral cooperation will also be in the interests of Chinese consumers who will have better access to Italian products that are of the highest quality, according to Geraci.
“We’re also looking at potential greenfield and brownfield Chinese investments into Italy. Details of specific projects will be the next steps after the signing of the MOU,” he said.
Chinese President Xi Jinping will pay state visits to Italy, Monaco and France from Thursday to March 26, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang announced Monday, a trip that analysts said will boost China-EU investment and trade.
Agriculture, food, food machinery, the green economy and the digital economy are some sectors where China and Italy could work together more, the Italian official noted.
In addition, China could lead by example in both the digital and green economies, “another area where we lag behind but where our government is putting in a lot of effort,” he said.