Crosetto pictured says Belt and Road Initiative with Chins was an atrocious mistake

Italy seeking to leave ‘atrocious’ China Belt and Road Initiative

Business News

The defence minister Guido Crosetto says Italy is looking to leave the ‘improvised and atrocious’ decision to join China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) made in 2019.

Joining China’s vast Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) was an “atrocious” decision, Italy’s defence minister has said. Now, he says, the decision is how to leave without damaging ties with Beijing.

In an interview published on Sunday, the defence minister, Guido Crosetto, said the decision four years ago was meant to boost Italian exports. However, little had been done in that regard, whilst Chinese exports to Italy soared.

“The decision to join the [new] Silk Road was an improvised and atrocious act” that multiplied China’s exports to Italy but did not have the same effect on Italian exports to China, Crosetto told the Corriere della Sera newspaper.

“The issue today is: how to walk back [from the BRI] without damaging relations [with Beijing]. Because it is true that China is a competitor, but it is also a partner.”

Crosetto also voiced concerns about Beijing’s “increasingly assertive attitudes”, its ambition to have the largest military presence in the world and its ambitions to expand, particularly in Africa. “They don’t hide their goals, they make them explicit,” he said.

Italy was the only major western member, and the current administration is now looking at how they can break free from the agreement.

What is the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)?

The BRI scheme envisions rebuilding the old Silk Road to connect China with Asia, Europe and beyond. It involves a huge amount of infrastructure, particularly on roads and shipping routes. Naturally, critics of the BRI see it as simply a way for China to increase its geopolitical and economic influence. At the extreme end, a stepping stone to global dominance.

A study released in March this year, showed China spent $240bn (£195bn) bailing out countries struggling under their BRI debts between 2008 and 2021.

Italy signed up to the BRI in 2019, as the only becoming the only major western member. Italy’s PM met with US President Joe Biden last Thursday. She said her government had until December to decide on the BRI. She also said she would travel to Beijing soon.

In an interview on Saturday with the TG5 news programme, Meloni said it was a “paradox” that while Italy was part of the BRI, it was not the G7 country with the strongest trading links to China. “This shows that you can have good relations and trading partnerships [outside the BRI].”

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