China and Italy have signed preliminary agreements for trade and infrastructure worth €2.5 billion (US$2.8 billion).
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte recently met with China’s president Xi Jinping, when the head of state visited Rome, Italy.
The two leaders signed a formal Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), while companies, ministries and public bodies from both countries signed almost 30 deals, according to Reuters. Two of the deals signed concern Italy’s ports and have come under intense scrutiny on both sides of the Atlantic.
Chinese Communications Construction Company (CCCC) has signed agreements with the Italian authorities responsible for the ports at Genoa and Trieste. CCCC, an infrastructure group owned by the Chinese state, has made the deals as part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which aims to establish infrastructure connecting Asia, Africa, Europe and the Middle East.
The Port System Authority of the Western Ligurian Sea and the Port System Authority of the Eastern Adriatic Sea in Italy, both released statements announcing the development deals, which include new stations, railways and integrated infrastructure.
Italy’s economy is currently in recession and the MoU signed between the countries’ leaders is the precursor to investment. Italian Prime Minister, Conti, said, “It’s now time for a more effective relationship between Italy and China,” according to the Guardian.
Italy is the first of the G7 countries (the world’s richest seven economies) to support China’s global infrastructure plan. The country’s agreement to cooperate with China has been met with concern by some other EU states and the US.
According to the New York Times, officials in President Trump’s administration have already tried to stop the deal, while the American National Security Council (ANSC) posted its reservations on social media. In a tweet on its official Twitter page, the ANSC said, “Endorsing BRI lends legitimacy to China’s predatory approach to investment and will bring no benefits to the Italian people.”