Italy Saturday became the first G7 country to sign up to Chinas Belt and Road Initiative.
The two countries pledged closer economic cooperation, in particular in the fields of connectivity, transport, infrastructure and trade. Neither side spoke during the signing ceremony, the highlight of a three-day trip to Italy by Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Italian President Sergio Mattarella said Friday that signing up to the Belt and Road Initiative would “strengthen ties between Italy and China. Its a two-way road that I hope brings an exchange of ideas and culture and not just business and trade.”
The two countries also signed agreements on topics ranging from e-commerce to tech start-ups and tax avoidance.
Italys cozying up to Beijing raised fears in Washington and across Europe, with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte having to reassure Italys traditional allies that this deal “builds cooperation in a balanced and mutually advantageous way, while also respecting … cooperation between the EU and China.”
Italys signature comes after EU leaders, including Conte, on Friday discussed the need to strengthen Europes position against China. “We are partners on one hand and competitors on the other — not only regarding the economy, but we also have very different political systems. We want relations on the basis of reciprocity. We also want good trade ties with China,”