Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said Tuesday that closer cooperation with China within the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is in line with Italy’s national interests.
“Our economic and trade focus (on the BRI) and on China is fully legitimate and justified in light of our national interests,” Conte told lawmakers ahead of a European Union (EU) Summit on March 21-22, whose agenda includes discussions on cooperation with China.
“We will boost our exports toward an enormous market; our businesses will get the chance to participate directly in new and significant infrastructural investments,” added the prime minister.
In addition, “our peninsula, our ports and trade hubs, will not be bypassed … but will enjoy the economic advantages” created by the BRI trade routes from China, he said.
Conte confirmed that he will attend the second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation scheduled for April in Beijing. Attending the forum, he said,
“will give me a chance to promote the Italian and European vision on the BRI, in a spirit of collaboration with Beijing”
Chinese President Xi Jinping will travel to Italy on Thursday for the first state visit by a Chinese head of state to the European country in 10 years.
During the visit, the two countries will, among others, strengthen practical cooperation in various areas within the BRI framework, said the Chinese Foreign Ministry prior to the trip, which comes amid growing anticipation that the two sides might ink a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on BRI cooperation.
Conte said that the possible signing of an MOU is not a challenge to Italy’s Western alliances.
The MOU “is strictly concerned with economic and trade matters, and does not in any way call into question our Euro-Atlantic placement,” Conte said.
China has said that the Belt & Road Initiative is designed to promote common development and follows the “golden rule” of extensive consultation, joint contribution, and shared benefits.