Antonio Tajani talks China. In an interview with Il Messaggero, the Italian Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister said the government is “reflecting” on whether to keep Italy in China’s Belt and Road Initiative. The decision comes amid a wider Western realignment vis a vis Beijing, factoring in its increasing assertiveness and unfair market practices as long-term strategic threats.
- “China is our competitor. We want good relations, but the rules must be the same for everyone,” he stressed, “so [we reject] social and environmental dumping, unfair competition, taking away know-how instead of long-term investment,” remarked FM Tajani.
And so does Giancarlo Giorgetti. During the weekend, speaking on the sidelines of the G-7 Finance meeting, Italy’s Economy Minister had remarked that – vis a vis the BRI – the matter of economic security is “certainly a central issue,” especially as it’s connected to the green and energy transitions, “where a good part of the critical raw materials come exactly from countries that, in some way, are influenced by or have relations with China.”
- An assessment of a “strategic type” is required, continued Minister Giorgetti, “not only for Italy but for all G-7 countries.”
It’s crunch time. Beijing is a centrepiece of the G-7 discussions as they progress towards the leaders’ summit in Hiroshima later this week. Member countries are also expected to flesh out an investment, infrastructure and development plan for emerging countries that may act as the Western alternative to the BRI. In this context, there’s heightened attention regarding Italy’s choice on the matter.
- Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s reportedly told United States House Speaker Kevin McCarthy that Rome does intend to exit the BRI, although diplomatic advisers are still considering the details and timing of the decision to limit the nearly-inevitable economic backlash from China.
- Meanwhile, China is pressuring Italy to “tap into” the BRI’s potential and not walk away from the deal – as losing Italy, the only G-7 country to participate in it, would deal a serious political blow to President Xi Jinping’s pet project.