‘BRI adhesion does bring economic advantages for Italy’

The narrative surrounding Italy’s adhesion to the Belt and Road Initiative insists that it did not bring significant advantages for the country, since China did not significantly increase its investments there. However, the initiative did bring some economic benefits to, for example, railway companies running trains between Italy and China as Landry Fotso, COO of the Italian Society for Import Export told RailFreight.com.

Fotso underlined that since Italy has been part of the BRI, running trains between Italy and China became cheaper. This is because BRI members can count on tax concessions when it comes to, for example, customs procedures. “For these reasons, we hope that the agreement will be renewed”, Fotso claimed said.

Has Meloni changed her mind?

Italy has to decide whether to renew its adhesion to the Belt and Road Initiative by the end of the year. Since her election in September, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni was quite adamant about her intentions of not renewing Italy’s participation in the BRI. The main reasons behind her stance are China’s position on the Russian invasion of Ukraine as well as its attitude towards Taiwan, Hong Kong, and the Uyghurs. Many expected Meloni to announce the end of Italy’s BRI experience during her trip to the United States last week. However, she stalled and said that the deadline is set for December, still leaving some time to make a decision.

More recently, however, Meloni showed a more open attitude towards the BRI agreement. At the end of June, she said that she wanted to involve the Parliament in the decision about extending or interrupting the agreement. More recently, in an interview with Fox News, Meloni added that the Chinese government shall be involved in the discussion. During her visit to the United States, she announced that “one of the next missions” will be visiting China.

Another statement from Meloni that might be interpreted as a wink to China is the one concerning foreign investments in Africa. Meloni was quite critical of the strategies adopted by countries that tried to do business in the continent and stressed the need for a more concrete approach. According to her, western countries that invested in Africa were always ready to give advice but rarely offered a hand. However, Meloni thinks that a good Italy-China relationship can be achieved even without the BRI. “We are the only G7 country in the BRI but we are not the one that has the best trade with China”, she explained.

Italy and the BRI

Italy was, and still is, the first and only G7 country to sign an MoU with China regarding the New Silk Road. The agreement was signed by the government coalition led by Giuseppe Conte in 2019, where current Ministry of Transport Matteo Salvini acted as Deputy Prime Minister and Ministry of the Interior. If, on the one hand, Salvini might be more keen on remaining in the BRI, other members of the government have drastically different positions. Ministry of Defense Giulio Crosetto, for example, defined the move of 2019 as “improvised and atrocious”.

The agreement is planned to expire in March 2024 and Italy needs to make a decision on whether or not to renew it by the end of 2023. Concerning China, a new ambassador was recently appointed in Italy: Jia Guide, the former Chinese ambassador in Peru. The choice of Guide for Italy may not be casual after all. In 2019, while working as an ambassador in Lima, Peru joined the BRI that Italy is planning on leaving.

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Autor/a Marco Raimondi

Fuente: RailFreight.com