Many Italian parties are against Rome’s participation in China’s Belt and Road Initiative, Antonio Tajani, the country’s foreign minister said Saturday, ahead of a critical decision on whether to quit the project.
Rome sent shockwaves throughout the Western world in 2019 when it signed up to the BRI — China’s massive infrastructure and investment plan aimed at boosting its influence across the globe. At the time, analysts said that by joining the project, Italy was undermining Europe‘s ability to stand up to Beijing.
When former European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi took power in Rome in 2021, he froze the agreement. Two years down the line and with a new government in place, Italy is now having another think about its ties with China.
“The Italian message is very clear we want to work with China, we want to be present in China’s market, we are ready for Chinese investment, but as I said, it is important [to have a] level playing field,” said Tajani, who also serves as Italy’s deputy prime minister.
Italy is due to announce in the coming months if it is officially ending its participation in the landmark Chinese project.
Under the agreement the two parties can end the deal after five years, otherwise the partnership gets extended for another five-year term. Italy has until the end of the 2023 to inform China on whether it wants to end the deal.
Tajani is due to visit China in the coming days. Speaking to CNBC’s Steve Sedgwick at the Ambrosetti Forum, he said the trip won’t be difficult, but “it is important for us.”
Tajani, however, did not confirm any specific time for when Italy will unveil its final decision on whether to continue in the Belt and Road Initiative.
“The Italian Parliament is checking the situation. In this moment the countries without the Belt and Road Initiative, the European countries, are working better than us. For this, Italy will decide if [to] stay or not [to] stay in the Belt and Road Initiative. In the parliament, many parties are against it,” he said.