The belt and road scheme envisions rebuilding the old Silk Road to connect China with Asia, Europe and beyond with large infrastructure spending
Guido Crosetto said joining the project was an ‘atrocious act’ that multiplied China’s exports to Italy but did little to boost Italian exports to China
July 31, 2023
Guido Crosetto, Italy’s defence minister. Photo: Reuters
Italy made an “improvised and atrocious” decision when it joined China’s Belt and Road Initiative four years ago as it did little to boost exports, Italian Defence Minister Guido Crosetto said in an interview published on Sunday.
Italy signed up to the plan under a previous government, becoming the only major Western country to have taken such a step. Crosetto is part of an administration that is considering how to break free of the agreement.
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The scheme - China’s plan to grow global trade - envisions rebuilding the old Silk Road to connect China with Asia, Europe and beyond with large infrastructure spending. Critics see it as a tool for China to spread its geopolitical and economic influence.
“The decision to join the (new) Silk Road was an improvised and atrocious act” that multiplied China’s exports to Italy but did not have the same effect on Italian exports to China, Crosetto told the Corriere della Sera newspaper.
“The issue today is: how to walk back (from the initiative) without damaging relations (with Beijing). Because it is true that China is a competitor, but it is also a partner,” the defence minister added.
After a White House meeting with US President Joe Biden on Thursday, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said her government was still deliberating on the initiative and announced a trip to Beijing in the near future.
“We’ll take a decision before December,” Meloni told US broadcaster Fox News in an interview broadcast on Sunday, adding that the issue required discussions with the Chinese government and within the Italian parliament.
Meloni reiterated her view that it is a “paradox” that while Italy is part of the initiative, it is not the Group of Seven (G7) country with the biggest trade with China, and said that shows it is possible to have good relations with Beijing without the belt and road.