Joining China’s Belt and Road Initiative was a ‘terrible’ decision

Joining China's Belt and Road Initiative was a 'terrible' decision

By Alvise Armellini

ROME (Reuters) – Italian Defense Minister Guido Crosetto said in an interview published on Sunday that Italy made an “impromptu and outrageous” decision when it joined China’s Belt and Road initiative four years ago because it did too little to boost exports.

Italy signed up to the Belt and Road Initiative under a previous government, becoming the only major Western country to take such a step. Crosetto is part of the administration that is studying how to break free from the agreement.

The Belt and Road Initiative plan envisions rebuilding the ancient Silk Road to connect China with Asia, Europe and beyond through massive infrastructure spending. Critics see it as a tool China uses to spread its geopolitical and economic influence.

“The decision to join the (new) Silk Road was an impromptu and outrageous act,” Crosito told the Corriere della Sera newspaper, which doubled China’s exports to Italy but did not have the same impact on Italian exports to China.

“The issue today is: how to undo (the Belt and Road Initiative) without harming relations (with Beijing). Because it is true that China is a competitor, but it is also a partner,” the defense minister added.

After meeting at the White House with US President Joe Biden on Thursday, Italy’s Prime Minister, Giorgia Meloni, said her government was still deliberating on the Belt and Road Initiative and announced a trip to Beijing in the near future.

“We will make a decision before December,” Meloni told US station 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 “ironical” that while Italy is part of the Belt and Road Initiative, it is not the G7 country with the largest trade with China, and said this shows that it is possible to have good relations with Beijing without the Belt and Road. .

(Reporting by Rami Ayoub in Washington; Editing by David Evans and Susan Fenton)

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