Italy to be first G7 member to sign BRI agreement
“When the wind of change blows, some people build walls, others build windmills.” This is the Chinese proverb quoted by Italian Undersecretary of Economy and Finance Mr. Michele Geraci on Oct 1, when Task Force China was inaugurated at the Italian Ministry of Economy and Finance in Rome. The goal of Task Force China is to develop, under the coordination of the Italian Ministry of Economy and Finance, a systemic approach to dialogue with China and to address all aspects of bilateral cooperation, from trade and investment to cooperation in science, infrastructure, culture, tourism as well as transportation.
While visiting China’s southwestern city of Chengdu at the 17th Western China International Fair, Italian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Economic Development, Labor and Social Policies Mr. Luigi Di Maio confirmed that Italy looks forward to cooperating more comprehensively with China. “We are identifying the fields of participation, an aviation Silk Road, a cultural Silk Road, a land Silk Road, a maritime Silk Road -- a series of fields in which we want to make government-to-government and business-to-business partnerships with China,” said Di Maio in an interview with CGTN.
Besides confidently supporting the Belt and Road Initiative as a crucial project to promote the infrastructure network project linking Asia, Africa and Europe, Di Maio also greatly praised China’s economic progress and development. Such development and opening-up has in fact deeply benefited Sino-Italian economic and cultural cooperation. In 2017, bilateral trade between Italy and China reached almost $50 billion, with an increase of 15.1 percent. In particular, Chinese imports from Italy amounted to $20.43 billion, an increase of 22.2 percent. Currently, there are 6,430 Italian students in China, while Italy has close to 20,000 Chinese students. Moreover, every year more than 1.5 million Chinese tourists travel to Italy.
Chinese investments in Italy have grown at a fast pace, involving mostly sectors such as infrastructure, machine tools, communications and finance, said Chinese Ambassador to Italy Mr. Li Ruiyu. With China's increasing openness and achievements in the BRI, Chinese foreign investment will continue to grow. Over the next five years, China will invest $150 billion in countries along the Silk Road, and China and Italy are certainly natural partners for achieving the BRI due to their strong economic complementarity.
The recently inaugurated Task Force China has already made great accomplishments, such as the memorandum of understanding between China and Italy on cooperation in third countries as well as the signing of agreements between the Italian Ministry of Economy and Finance and Sichuan province on the promotion of bilateral trade and investment. The Task Force will be engaged in the next months to make sure that an MoU with China on the BRI would be signed by the end of 2018. Italy’s steps toward deepening BRI cooperation with China are not just a positive sign for other countries. They have also demonstrated that strengthening bilateral and multilateral ties is a must for building “windmills” of lasting friendship and peaceful cooperation.
The author is a graduate in China Studies and International Relations at Peking University and the London School of Economics. Currently, he is working in the fields of development and public policy.