Italy endorses China’s Belt and Road plan in first for a G7 nation

Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) and Italy’s President Sergio Mattarella address a joint press conference following their meeting on March 22, 2019 at the Quirinale presidential palace in Rome, as part of Xi Jinping’s two-day visit to Italy. (AFP)
Updated 24 March 2019
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Italy endorses China’s Belt and Road plan in first for a G7 nation

ROME: Italy endorsed China’s ambitious “Belt and Road” infrastructure plan on Saturday, becoming the first major Western power to back the initiative to help revive the struggling Italian economy.
Saturday’s signing ceremony was the highlight of a three-day trip to Italy by Chinese President Xi Jinping, with the two nations boosting their ties at a time when the United States is locked in a trade war with China.
The rapprochement has angered Washington and alarmed some European Union allies, who fear it could see Beijing gain access to sensitive technologies and critical transport hubs.
Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio played down such concerns, telling reporters that although Rome remained fully committed to its Western partners, it had to put Italy first when it came to commercial ties.
“This is a very important day for us, a day when Made-in-Italy has won, Italy has won and Italian companies have won,” said Di Maio, who signed the memorandum of understanding on behalf of the Italian government in a Renaissance villa.
Taking advantage of Xi’s visit, Italian firms inked deals with Chinese counterparts worth an initial 2.5 billion euros ($2.8 billion). Di Maio said these contracts had a potential, future value of 20 billion euros.
The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) lies at the heart of China’s foreign policy strategy and was incorporated into the ruling Communist Party constitution in 2017, reflecting Xi’s desire for his country to take a global leadership role.
The United States worries that it is designed to strengthen China’s military influence and could be used to spread technologies capable of spying on Western interests.
WARM WELCOME
Italy’s populist government, anxious to lift the economy out of its third recession in a decade, dismissed calls from Washington to shun the BRI and gave Xi the sort of red-carpet welcome normally reserved for its closest allies.
Some EU leaders also cautioned Italy this week against rushing into the arms of China, with French President Emmanuel Macron saying on Friday that relations with Beijing must not be based primarily on trade.
There was not even universal backing for the BRI agreement within Italy’s ruling coalition, with Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini, who heads the far-right League, warning against the risk of China “colonialising” Italian markets.
Salvini did not meet Xi and declined to attend a state dinner held in honor of the visiting leader on Friday.
Di Maio, who leads the 5-Star Movement, says Italy is merely playing catch up, pointing to the fact that it exports significantly less to China than either Germany or France.
Italy registered a trade deficit with China of 17.6 billion euros last year and Di Maio said the aim was to eliminate the deficit as soon as possible.
After talks with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and Di Maio in the morning, Xi flew to the Sicilian city Palermo for a private visit on Saturday afternoon.
He is due to head to Monte Carlo on Sunday before finishing his brief tour of Europe in France, where he is due to hold talks with Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.


Samsung Electronics retrieving all Galaxy Fold smartphone samples

Updated 32 min 43 sec ago
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Samsung Electronics retrieving all Galaxy Fold smartphone samples

  • The retrieval comes as the world’s biggest smartphone maker met with embarrassment ahead of the foldable device’s US release on April 26
  • Samsung postponed the handset’s launch while it investigated the matter

SEOUL: Samsung is retrieving all Galaxy Fold samples distributed to reviewers to investigate reports of broken screens, a day after it postponed the phone’s launch, a person with direct knowledge of the matter said on Tuesday.
The retrieval comes as the world’s biggest smartphone maker met with embarrassment ahead of the foldable device’s US release on April 26, with a handful of technology journalists reporting breaks, bulges and blinking screens after a day’s use.
The South Korean tech giant postponed the handset’s launch for an unspecified period of time while it investigated the matter. It said initial findings showed the issues could be associated with impact on exposed areas of the hinges.
A representative declined to comment further on Tuesday.
A person with direct knowledge of the supply chain said KH Vatec conducted an internal review of hinges used in the Galaxy Fold and found no defects. The supplier declined to comment.
In March, Samsung released a video showing robots folding Galaxy Fold handsets 200,000 times for its durability test.
Samsung’s head of IT and mobile communications, DJ Koh, has repeatedly said foldables are the future of smartphones.
Though the issue does not hurt Samsung’s balance sheet, the postponement damages the firm’s effort to showcase itself as an innovative first mover, not a fast follower, analysts said.
In some cases, reviewers had peeled off a layer of film which they mistook for a disposable screen protector.
“It’s disastrous that Samsung sent samples to reviewers without clear instructions on how to handle the device, and that the firm needs to fix screen flickering,” said analyst Kim Young-woo at SK Securities.
One Samsung employee, speaking on condition of anonymity, said, “On the bright side, we have an opportunity to nail down this issue and fix it before selling the phones to a massive audience, so they won’t have same complaints.”
Samsung emailed pre-order customers upon delaying the launch, online outlets said on Twitter.
“Your pre-order guarantees your place in the queue for this innovative technology,” Samsung said in the email. “We’ll update you with more specific shipping information in two weeks.”