Italy Joins China’s Belt And Road Despite U.S. Pressure

BRI meeting
Chinese President Xi Jinping attends a news conference at the end of the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing, China May 15, 2017. (Photo: REUTERS/Jason Lee/File Photo)

On Tuesday, Italy's Premier Guiseppe Conte pledged that the country will be the first member of the Group of Seven nation to join the Belt and Road Initiative of China despite the objections of the United States and the concern within his governing coalition.

Conte said on his speech to the parliament that the country will sign a memorandum of understanding for the infrastructure-building venture during the visit of China's Premier this week. The premier said that, in the least, the agreement will not question Italy's position within the strategic trans-Atlantic alliance or with its European partners.

The signature of Italy might be considered a major legitimation of China's Belt and Road initiative which aims to connect China to almost every continent through overland and maritime routes. The United States is the strongest critic of the initiative and of China. The United States calls China's Belt and Road as a "vanity project".

Last year in Beijing, European leaders declined to sign a joint declaration on the Belt and Road. They said that it lacked the standards on financing transparency. Conte said during his speech that the details of the agreement have been worked out over months of consultations at every level of government. The premier said that the memorandum is not legally binding and that it gives Italy access to China's large market.

President Xi Jinping is scheduled to visit Europe on Thursday despite the growing tension brought by the divisions on the continent over the Belt and Road and the pressure of the United States against China's Huawei. The president will first visit Italy before traveling to Monaco in preparation for his five-day journey in France.

The Chinese leader's visit comes after the European Union released a 10-point plan outlining a shift to more assertive relations with the Asian nation. Recently, the European Union announced that it will force China to open its nation's market to European investors. Europe claims that China practices unfair trade policies giving European investors strict regulations while enjoying the open trade of the European continent. Critics of the Asian country claim that China is setting debt traps to financially vulnerable countries.

European members Greece and Poland also joined the Belt and Road infrastructure program of China. Others, however, fear that it leads to greater Chinese government influence in Europe. According to President Emmanuel Macron, members of the European Union should have a coordinated approach to China. He urged for cooperation based on the spirit of equality and reciprocity.

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