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Bolstering the Italy-US business front on China. Urso’s US trip

The Italian Enterprise Minister will travel to Washington in the coming days to build jointly a “Western industrial-energy policy” that can respond to Beijing’s “systemic challenge”. All the dossiers on the table (including Meloni’s visit)

Adolfo Urso will fly to Washington. The Italian Minister of Enterprise and Made in Italy is set to take off on a mission to the United States, from June 1 to 4. Beyond celebrating Italy’s Republic Day with the local Italian community on June 2, he’s in for a series of bilateral meetings, including with his counterpart, Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo.

  • Minister Urso’ visit is the first of three. The Foreign and Defence Ministers, Antonio Tajani and Guido Crosetto, will fly to the US shortly after, with the former scheduled to meet Secretary of State Antony Blinken…
  • … and likely finalise the last details of Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s own visit, which could take place before July.

A different approach. Minister Urso’s visit is geared at “building with the US a Western industrial-energy policy that can respond to the systemic challenge of China.” And since the matter is bigger than the bilateral relation, he is set to coordinate with the European Union’s other two major economies before flying to Washington.

  • The Italian minister will meet with his French and German counterparts to find a common line on the issue of greentech subsidies and the US’ protectionist policies, aiming to exempt EU companies from the latter and coordinate on the former.
  • That’s in contrast with both Paris and Berlin’s unilateral moves in the past months.

Focus on China… Inevitably, the US interlocutors will ask Mr Urso about the Belt and Road Initiative issue (Rome must decide by year’s end on exiting the Memorandum of Understanding that underpins its adherence to the BRI). And although the Italian government is leaning towards dropping it, it’s also moving cautiously.

  • On Sunday, PM Meloni told Il Messaggero that it’s “still too early to say what the outcome of our evaluation will be.” Still, she remarked that Italy can have good relations with China, “even in important areas, without these necessarily being part of an overall strategic plan.”

… red tape-cutting… In a note, the Enterprise Ministry highlighted that talks will bring forth the industrial and commercial synergies between Italy and the US, especially in the context of the digital and ecological transitions. The Italian government will highlight the steps it’s taking to make the country more attractive for investors, such as:

  • the creation of a national sovereign fund for companies, open to private investors at a later stage (the Council of Ministers will examine the project next week);
  • and the establishment of a one-stop shop at the Enterprise Ministry to un-bureaucratise and simplify the activities of foreign investors, including through dedicated tutors.

… semiconductors… Mr Urso will also lay out the guidelines of Italy’s national plan for microelectronics, coordinated with the European Chips Act and emphasising the build-up of strategic autonomy, according to the note. Talks might also touch upon the issue of Intel’s stalemate in picking a location to build a new Italian chip packaging plant.

  • Recently, Mr Urso told Il Sole 24 Ore that the government had done its homework and is now waiting for the US chipmaker’s decision. Meanwhile, it’s receiving “very positive feedback” from the most important companies and potential investors on the plan’s outline.

… space… The note also indicates Rome’s intention to strengthen ties with Washington in the space sector, with contacts with the National Space Council and with major US commercial companies in the sector. In her upcoming visit, PM Meloni will likely devolve a great deal of her attention to this matter, following in the footsteps of French President Emmanuel Macron – who bolstered aerospace cooperation with US President Joe Biden during his visit.

… and Ukraine. Finally, the note emphasises Italy’s role in supporting Ukraine and the projects for its reconstruction, which will be discussed during the talks. Minister Urso has been actively involved in this dossier through missions and meetings, including during the last legislature – when his and PM Meloni’s party was in the opposition – in his capacity as president of Italy’s intelligence committee.

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