Home » Italian governing partners push to drop the BRI

Italian governing partners push to drop the BRI

Xi Meloni
Two influential members of Brothers of Italy and the League indicate the executive is leaning toward not renewing the Belt and Road Initiative deal that binds Rome to Beijing

Scales are tilting against the BRI. The Italian government is contending with the thorny issue of the renewal of the Memorandum of Understanding that brought Italy into the Belt and Road Initiative (China’s infrastructure and financial influence project). And although Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni is tight-lipped about the issue, members of her majority – including from her own party, Brothers of Italy – are indicating that Rome will likely decide to walk away from Beijing.

  • The MoU is set to auto-renew unless one of the parties announces its termination by year’s end. China, on its part, is playing the economy card to convince Italy to stay in the deal. But that line is unlikely to resonate in Rome: here’s why.

Exhibit A: Giangiacomo Calovini. On Wednesday, speaking to our sister website, the BoI MP and member of the Lower House Foreign Affairs Commission remarked that the ruling party “has always raised concerns about the MoU, which promised economic gains in the face of substantial political adherence to the [BRI].” However, he noted, that “massive boost” in Italian exports to China “has not materialised.”

  • Data from the Foreign Affairs Ministry shows that Italian exports to China have grown less substantially than expected, from €13 billion in 2019 to €16.4 billion in 2022. Conversely, Chinese exports to Italy skyrocketed from €31.7 to €57.5 billion in the same period.
  • “There is no official decision from the government yet, and the executive has a duty to evaluate every aspect before deciding how to act, but I personally believe that it is not necessary to renew this memorandum in order to work with Beijing,” added Mr Calovini.

Exhibit B: Andrea Crippa. The deputy head of the League and MP also pointed out to our sister website that “it is not necessary to renew this memorandum in order to work with Beijing.” On Thursday, Reuters cited a senior government official who confirmed that Rome would most likely exit the deal – although it needs time to discuss it with China – and cite the lack of economic development as an argument.

More breadcrumbs. On the 2022 campaign trail, PM Meloni expressed closeness to Taiwan and called the MoU “a big mistake”. More recently, Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani stressed that Rome is aligned with the EU and NATO vis a vis Taiwan. Also, Agriculture Minister Francesco Lollobrigida (a close ally of the PM) assured that Italy would coordinate with Western institutions on the matter, and Defence Minister Guido Crosetto noted it’s “unlikely” the PM will renew it.

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