Italy government

Silk Road breaches Italian government – ​​POLITICO

ROME – Italian government divided over whether to sign China’s emblem “One belt, one road” infrastructure program that stretches across Asia to major European shopping centers.

Some 13 EU countries have signed on to China’s new Silk Road plan, but Washington and Brussels are deeply concerned that the involvement of G7 heavyweight Rome could lend greater credibility to a project they consider a strategic threat.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and Luigi Di Maio of the 5 Star Movement, one of two deputy prime ministers, said a draft agreement with Beijing – which would not constitute an international treaty – would not be undermine Italy’s alliances with the United States and the EU.

League leader Matteo Salvini, who is the other deputy prime minister, however, took a more cautious stance. He warned this week that he would say no to any Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).colonize“Italy, and noted Rome must “carefully assess the implications for strategic sectors such as telecommunications and infrastructure”.

The five-page draft memorandum of understanding, obtained by POLITICO, sets out the main areas of cooperation between the two countries. Those are :

— Policy dialogue, including working with the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank

— Transport, logistics and infrastructure

— Removal of barriers to trade and investment

— Financial and economic partnerships

— Connectivity

– Durability

The memorandum of understanding states that the parties will cooperate “without imposing any limits or restrictions [through] the exchange of information gathered by the parties in a wide range of fields; the development of pilot programs in key areas; cooperation between private and public capital; and bilateral agreements in specific sectors that can lead to the creation of collaborative structures.”

According to other documents seen by POLITICO, the Italian and Chinese governments are also in the process of negotiating 31 additional MoUs, 16 of which would be signed by the Chinese government and 15 involving companies. Each MoU sets out the details of the framework in each area of ​​cooperation.

Ports, planes and technology

Additional MoUs include details on Chinese investments in the port of Trieste and Genoa; cooperation between central banks, including support for the internationalization of the renminbi; cooperation in the aerospace sector; and technology investments. The documents indicate that Italy’s 5G telecommunications network would be part of the cooperation, but Italian President Sergio Mattarella later said that was not the case.

Three government officials briefed on the discussions said these additional MoUs are still under discussion and may be revisited.

“These are unlikely to be signed during Xi Jinping’s state visit…and for what it’s worth, I have a feeling at least half will be killed,” the statement said. one of three, referring to the Chinese president’s three-day Italian trip from March 21.

In an interview published on Wednesday, Prime Minister Conte insisted “the MoU sets out a legally non-binding framework of goals within the BRI [and] the memorandum of understanding that we negotiated for months builds cooperation in a balanced and mutually beneficial way, while respecting the EU’s 2030 Agenda and the 2020 Agenda on EU-China cooperation.”

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said the proposed deal with Beijing would not jeopardize Italy’s alliances with the US and EU | Koca Sulejmanovic/EPA

The first paragraph of the Memorandum of Understanding sets out the commitment of China and Italy to respect the principles of the United Nations Charter, international and national laws and adherence to existing cooperation programs. It also outlines a commitment to act in an open, inclusive and balanced manner and to support “synergies between the Silk Road and the priorities identified in the European Investment Plan and the Trans-European Networks”.

Yet the document also spells out the goal of turning “mutual strengths into advantages” and “strengthening the parties’ political relationship, its commercial ties and people-to-people exchanges”.

Brussels and Washington are worried

“All of these, plus the exchange of data and information, are what both Brussels and the United States are concerned about,” an Italian Defense Ministry official said.

On Tuesday, the EU’s executive arm dismissed the potential deal, calling China “an economic competitor seeking technological leadership and a systemic rival promoting alternative governance models.”

China’s mission to the EU responded on Wednesday, saying “cooperation between China and the EU, which is mutually beneficial, serves the interests of both sides.”

“German hypocrisy is endless” — 5 Star Undersecretary in Rome

The Chinese statement added, “China is committed to developing its relations with the EU from a strategic and long-term perspective, and to working with the EU to enhance mutual understanding and cooperation.”

But the unusually critical tone from Brussels suggests the EU is aligning itself with a Franco-German plan to build a more defensive European industrial strategy, backed by European champions in sectors ranging from telecoms to heavy engineering. Italy’s decision would be detrimental to the plan.

“The German hypocrisy is endless,” said a 5-star undersecretary in Rome. “Duisburg [in Germany] is the de facto endpoint of the Silk Road Railway, they let the Chinese pump billions into their national infrastructure, and now they are worried about our participation in the BRI.”

Unusually critical tone from Brussels suggests EU is aligning with a Franco-German plan to build a more defensive European industrial strategy | Michele Tantussi/Getty Images

More than 25 freight trains from China to Western Europe pass through the German city every week, one of the largest inland ports in the world, where the Rhine and Ruhr meet. Chinese investment has been key to rejuvenating the complex in a region of West Germany hit by industrial decline in the 1990s.

Berlin has previously said it supports efforts to reduce rail freight transit time from Asia, but it has not officially backed the BRI. Germany’s main business lobby, the BDI, has begun to describe Beijing as a “systemic competitor”.

Unfazed Italy

The Italian government does not seem to be bothered by the threat.

Mattarella said on Wednesday that the agreement is “much less comprehensive than similar documents signed by other European countries, the rules to be applied by Italy are strict and 5G technology is not part of the framework”, according to Italian media reports.

The Italian-Chinese Memorandum of Understanding states that “the parties wish to develop synergies between the Silk Road, the Italian transport and infrastructure network, including roads, railways, bridges, aviation civil transport, ports and the EU’s trans-European transport network (TEN-T).

He goes on to say that the parties are committed to working together “to simplify customs operations and strengthen digital, secure and sustainable means of transport as well as investment and financing”. [and they] reaffirm the importance of non-discriminatory and open tendering procedures.”

Guglielmo Picchi | Flavio Lo Scalzo/EPA

A number of League government officials, including Undersecretary Guglielmo Picchi, have called for more meticulous examination by the government on such plans and wondered if Italian companies would ultimately benefit from cooperation, or if Italy would simply become a gateway to Europe for China.

“It’s a very bad idea and it’s surprising [Undersecretary Michele] Geraci, Di Maio and even Conte do not understand the political implications of this decision,” a League official told the Defense Department. “The US ambassador is furious and he has made Washington’s concerns very clear.”

Michele Geraci, the undersecretary of commerce promoting the deal, and the U.S. Embassy in Rome did not respond to requests for comment.

Hans Von Der Burchard and Josh Posaner contributed reporting.

This article has been updated.

This article is from POLITICS Pro: POLITICSpremium font service from . To find out why thousands of professionals trust Pro every day, email [email protected] for a free trial.