AUGUST 1 (Reuters) – ROME, Italy Italian Defense Minister Guido Crosetto stated in an interview published on Sunday that Italy’s choice to join China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) four years ago was “improvised and atrocious” since it achieved nothing to increase Italy’s exports.
Under the previous administration, Italy joined the BRI, making it the first major Western nation to do so. Crosetto is a member of a leadership team debating potential exit strategies from the pact.
The BRI plan calls for massive investment in infrastructure to revive the ancient Silk Road, reconnecting China with its neighbors and the rest of the world. Some others think China is using it to expand its economic and political hegemony.
Crosetto told the Corriere della Sera daily, “the decision to join the (new) Silk Road was an improvised and atrocious act” that increased China’s exports to Italy but had no similar impact on Italian exports to China.
The question now is how to pull out of BRI commitments without harming ties to Beijing. It’s true that China is a rival, but the defense minister stressed that it’s also a partner.
Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni met with Vice President Joe Biden at the White House on Thursday, after which she said that her government was still debating on the BRI and revealed plans to go to Beijing soon.
The matter needs conversations with the Chinese government and inside the Italian parliament, Meloni told the U.S. station Fox News in an interview aired on Sunday. “We’ll take a decision before December,” he said.
Meloni said once again that it is a “paradox” that Italy is a member of the BRI but does not have the largest commerce with China among the G7 countries, and that this demonstrates that excellent ties with Beijing are feasible even in the absence of the Belt and Road Initiative.