Italy Withdraws from China’s Massive Infrastructure Plan, Making it the Only G7 Nation to Do So

Italy Withdraws from China’s Massive Infrastructure Plan, Making it the Only G7 Nation to Do So

Italy, the only G7 nation to sign up for China’s Belt and Road infrastructure initiative, has decided to withdraw from the project after more than four years of participation, according to a government source. The decision was communicated to Beijing three days ago, as reported by Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera. Although there has been no official communication from either side, an Italian government source confirmed the withdrawal. The source stated that the decision was made in a manner that would maintain open channels of political dialogue.

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has consistently opposed Italy’s involvement in the initiative, which many see as an attempt by Beijing to gain political influence. Furthermore, the benefits to Rome were limited. The agreement was set to automatically renew in March 2024 unless Italy chose to opt out by the end of this year. However, Meloni and her hard-right government were also concerned about provoking Beijing and risking retaliation against Italian companies.

China claims that more than 150 countries, spanning from Uruguay to Sri Lanka, have signed up for the initiative, which is a central component of President Xi Jinping’s goal to expand China’s global influence. Beijing asserts that it has secured over two trillion dollars in contracts worldwide, including high-speed rail projects in Southeast Asia and large-scale infrastructure works in Central Asia. While proponents view it as a means of bringing resources and economic growth to developing countries, critics argue that it burdens these nations with considerable debt. Additionally, Chinese infrastructure companies have gained a foothold in many emerging economies through this initiative.

Western nations, particularly the United States, have expressed concerns that China is attempting to reshape the global order in its favor. Opposition within Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) countries has also condemned what they perceive as increasing Chinese interference in local politics. Furthermore, Washington has warned that China could exploit the initiative to establish military bases worldwide under the guise of protecting BRI investments.

Italy, as a member of the European Union, the G7, and NATO, joined the initiative in 2019 under former Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte’s leadership. However, current Prime Minister Meloni has deemed Italy’s participation a “mistake” before taking office in October 2022. The non-binding memorandum of understanding with China encompassed cooperation in logistics, infrastructure, finance, and the environment. However, the lack of transparency and limited details of the agreement fueled distrust among Italy’s allies. Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani stated in September that membership “has not produced the results we were hoping for.” Despite not joining the BRI, other major European economies such as Germany and France have secured significant trade and investment agreements.

(Note: This article is published from a syndicated feed and has not been edited by NDTV staff, except for the headline.)

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