Robert HARNEIS -TDO- ( FRANCE) - Italy has become the first G7 country to sign an agreement with China under the auspices of the “New Silk Road”, despite objections from Western partners.The Italian government is hoping that the agreement will go some way to reviving its economy that has been without real growth for over 10 years.

The Chinese President Xi Jinping also signed a number of other agreements notably in the steel and energy sectors. The Vice President of the Italian Government Council Luigi di Maio has indicated that these agreements amounted to 2.5 billion euros and that their value could eventually rise to 20 billion. Chinese media wrote that the port cities of Genoa, Trieste, Ravenna, and Palermo may be included in Rome’s plan to attract Chinese shipping and investment.

The Italian Vice President said that he hoped to see a marked increase in Italia exports to China in the coming years. He added that Italy in no way wished to damage the interests of her western partners but had to think of “Italy First”. President Macron of France had called for a joint approach to trade with China only a day ago at the EU summit.

Former Italian Prime Minister Franco Frattini earlier said that Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative holds “very high significance” for Rome, and partnership with China is aimed “to maximize European interests.”President Sergio Mattarella said that the ‘new Silk Road’ linking Europe to China should be used not only for the exchange of goods but “long-term solutions to common problems and future projects.”

The agreement on the « New silk road” is subject of some disagreement within the Italian government. The other Vice President, Matteo Salvini, the head of the League, warned against the risk of a « colonization” of Italian markets by China. Salvini did not meet Xi Jinping during his visit and declined to attend the banquet given in his honor.Di Maio, leader of the 5 Star movement, pointed out that all that Italy was doing was to catch up with France and Germany in the Chinese export market.

According to Reuters, after meeting with the President of the Italian government and de Maio, Xi Jinping is making a private visit to Sicily. After that he will visit Monte Carlo and France where he will meet President Macron, Chancellor Merkel and Jea- Claude Juncker President of the European Commission

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