PM Wen sees Sino-Italian ties bear fruit
A Chinese factory will begin churning out Italy's famous Piaggio scooters within two years, China's Prime Minister Wen Jiabao heard during the second day of a visit to Italy to strengthen economic ties.
Wen paid a lightning visit to the Piaggio factory near Pisa in Tuscany, praising its joint-venture with Chinese group Zongshen as an example for other Italian firms.
"I look on the agreement between the Zongshen group and Piaggio as a symbol of commercial and industrial cooperation between China and Italy," said Wen.
Piaggio's chairman Roberto Colannino said technology transfers from Italy to its Chinese partner meant that the first Chinese Piaggio could roll off the production line "within the next 24 months".
He emphasized that the move would effect neither jobs nor sales in Italy or elsewhere.
"I want to make it clear that all the production will be for the Chinese market. Piaggio isn't moving anything, this is an added production for the Chinese market," said Colaninno.
Earlier, more than 100 flag-waving members of the Chinese community turned out to greet Wen as he arrived at Pisa airport after flying north from Rome.
Police sealed off a large area of the city as the Chinese leader viewed Pisa's ancient Square of Miracles and the Leaning Tower with local officials before visiting the art city of Florence in the afternoon.
In Rome, Wen and a large ministerial delegation signed 10 economic and political accords with Italian leaders on Friday, the first day of an official three-day visit. He also had talks with Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi.
He signed a joint declaration with Berlusconi on establishing a governmental committee to promote bilateral cooperation and mutual understanding in the fields of politics, economy and trade, culture, science and technology.
Meeting Italian business leaders, he said China's rapid growth posed no threat to their production, and called on them to boost their investments in his country.
"Italian investments in our country altogether amount to around 2.5 billion dollars, or only 4.6 percent of Italy's total foreign investment. I believe that this figure is insufficient," Wen told Italy's employers federation Confindustria.
The Chinese leader's visit and his message that Beijing's phenomenal growth posed no threat has been well-received by the Italian press.
Business daily Il Sole 24 Ore said that Wen was using his state visit to Italy to "present a frank and unequivocal message to Europe, Japan and the United States -- despite the prodigious performance of its economy, China is still a fragile and rather backward country which cannot be set aside from the support of the rest of the world".
Wen's 11-day tour of Europe, designed to boost trade ties, began in Germany and the European Union institutions in Brussels, and will take in Britain and Ireland after Italy.