Italy is having second thoughts about joining China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
Its defense minister just slammed the deal for being “improvised and atrocious.”
Italy was the largest economy to sign the pact in 2019 and is currently weighing how to exit without damaging relations.
Guido Crosetto, Italy’s defense minister, just slammed his country’s decision to join China’s Belt and Road Initiative, or BRI, describing it as “improvised and atrocious.”
The country’s now mulling a diplomatic exit by the end of 2023.
Crosetto — a part of the new far-right administration which came to power in 2022 — made these remarks in an interview with the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera. He said the pact had multiplied China’s exports to Italy, but made little difference to Italy’s exports to China, according to a Reuters report Sunday.
First announced in 2013, the BRI is China’s ambitious infrastructure mega-project aiming to link over 100 countries across Europe and Asia through trade, including Indonesia, Poland, and Egypt. The Centre for Strategic and International Studies reported a broad range of estimates for how much China was investing in the project, from $1 to $8 trillion.
When Italy pledged to join China’s BRI in 2019, it was the largest economy to do so. It remains the only G7 country that has signed on to the initiative.
However, since then, Italy’s imports from China have almost doubled, but the European nation’s exports to China have barely increased.
Italy’s exports to China rose to 16.4 billion euros, or $18 billion, in 2022, from 13 billion euros in 2019. On the other hand, China’s exports to Italy rose from 31.7 billion euros in 2019 to 57.5 billion euros in 2022, Reuters reported, citing data from Italy’s economic observatory.
Italy’s current prime minister Giorgia Meloni was highly critical of the deal before her 2022 election but has since been making mixed signals.
Meloni said in May that “it is possible to have good relations with Beijing” without the BRI, Politico reported. Italy and China’s deal expires in 2024 and will automatically renew unless either country informs the other it intends to pull out in advance.
Italy is likely to exit BRI by the end of the year, Eurasia Group analysts said in a Friday report seen by Insider. “Meloni’s priority is to bolster her standing with Washington and other allies, even at the risk of retaliation,” the analysts wrote.
Since its inception, the BRI has been plagued by “buyer’s remorse,” with 35% of all BRI projects affected by major issues, according to a 2021 study by research lab Aid Data.
These issues have led to suspensions or outright cancellations of projects while ensnaring countries in steep debt to China, per the study.
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