Italy Plans to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to become a part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) by the end of March, according to Financial Times.

Italy is to become the First G7 country to formally endorse China’s controversial Belt and Road Global Investment drive, in a move that has drawn a sharp response from the White House and is likely to cause alarm in Brussels.

“The Negotiation is not over yet, but it is possible that it will be concluded in time for President Xi’s visit,” it reported quoting Michele Geraci, the Undersecretary in the Italian Economic Development Ministry.

China’s multi-billion dollar ‘One Belt and Road initiative’ aims to link the country by sea and land with southeast and central Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa, through an infrastructure network on the lines of the old Silk Road.

The Project was announced by country’s President Xi Jinping in 2013 during his official visit to Indonesia and Kazakhstan.

Aside from boosting trade and investment, Xi aims to boost exchanges in areas such as science, technology, culture and education.

It has dispersed tens of billions of dollars in loans, often to highly indebted countries, sparking criticism of Beijing for everything from “debt entrapment” to excluding local labour from projects funded by the plan.

Last year in October, World Bank acknowledge that “Belt and Road Initiative” building push may create debt risks but said that it is also responding to major infrastructure gaps in Asia and could boost global trade.

“There are huge opportunities: improved infrastructure means more trade, more investments, higher growth, bringing in landlocked regions,” said Caroline Freund, the Bank’s director of trade, regional integration and investment climate in a meeting in Mali

“But there are challenges as well, There are environmental and social risks, there are issues to do with public procurement, and sustaining public debt becomes an issue because these projects are expensive,” she added.

The World Bank estimates that BRI funded infrastructure could boost trade among countries involved by 3.6 per cent, and global trade some 2.4 per cent.

And officials say it is offering to fund in areas where it is sorely needed.

It is reported; Other countries including Greece and Portugal, where Chinese groups have invested billions of euros since the financial crisis, have adopted a more lenient approach.

Theresa May, the UK Prime Minister, last year refused to offer written support to the BRI during a trip to Beijing after weeks of diplomatic tension.

Zhang Yesui, National People’s Congress spokesman, said this week that 67 countries had signed up to the BRI in the past year or so. That would bring the total number of countries or international organisations that have formal endorsements to 152.

Mr Zhang stressed that decisions were taken jointly between China and its partners.

“China takes the issue of debt very seriously and within a project the Chinese side never imposes things nor, least of all, creates debt traps,” he said. “Of course, like any international co-operation, some problems and challenges may crop up.

With experience it will improve.”