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

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.


Virtual G20 meet leads to new virus plan

The G20 ministers and central bank governors tasked relevant working groups to deliver on the roadmap by their next virtual meeting on April 15. (SPA)
Updated 01 April 2020

Virtual G20 meet leads to new virus plan

  • The World Bank has said it is ready to deploy as much as $160 billion over the next 15 months to support its member countries to respond to the pandemic

LONDON: G20 finance ministers and central bank governors met virtually on Tuesday to coordinate their efforts in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
They agreed on a roadmap to implement commitments made at an earlier leader’s summit last week under the Saudi G20 presidency.
These included delivering a joint G20 Action Plan which will outline the individual and collective actions that the world’s most powerful economies  have taken and will be taking to respond to the pandemic. It will also address the risk of debt vulnerabilities in low-income countries, allowing them to focus their efforts on fighting the virus.
“The G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors also discussed the role of the IMF, the World Bank Group and other International Financial Institutions to deploy all available resources and explore additional measures needed to support emerging markets and developing economies amid the COVID-19 pandemic, including by supporting financial stability and alleviating liquidity constraints,” the G20 said.
The World Bank has said it is ready to deploy as much as $160 billion over the next 15 months to support its member countries to respond to the pandemic.
The G20 ministers and central bank governors tasked relevant working groups to deliver on the roadmap by their next virtual meeting on April 15.