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  • President Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, March 15, 2019.

    President Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, March 15, 2019. | Photo: Reuters

Published 21 March 2019

The Italian Prime Minister said an agreement with China does not risk his country's national interests and is fully in line with the EU strategy.

At a speech before the Parliament, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte confirmed that Italy will be the first G7 country to join China’s Silk Road Initiative, despite reservations made by the United States. The Sino-Italian Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) is to be signed during President Xi Jinping’s visit to Italy, which begins Thursday.

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Conte also explained that Italy's involvement in the Chinese project will not affect its relations with EU partners or its position within the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

"The Belt and Road MOU is exclusively economic-commercial. It does not question our Euro-Atlantic position," Conte said, adding that “it is justified precisely in the light of our national interests: we can enhance our exports towards a huge market... It presents no risk to our national interests and is fully in line with the EU strategy."

Earlier this month, however, the U.S. National Security Council spokesman Garrett Marquis demanded Italy not to support China's business plan, which the White House calls "a vanity project."

During an interview with Italian and Chinese media, President Sergio Mattarella also expressed his satisfaction with the Italy-China partnership, which is based on "solid foundations, inspired by natural convergences between two very ancient civilizations".

"We hope that President Xi's visit will generate agreements, ideas and projects aimed at boosting a partnership between Italy and China... which requires an increasing volume of sustainable infrastructure investments so as to ensure a future of well-being and peace for all," Mattarella said as reported by Ansa.

The Silk Road Belt and Route initiative is a huge business project aimed at connecting Europe, South and East Asia, Central Asia, the Middle East and Latin America.

In the last six years, Chinese direct investments in the European economy increased almost 22 times, shifting from US$1.8 billion in 2012 to US$39 billion in 2018.

President Xi vowed that his country will support the New Silk Road by offering US$20 billion in loans and US$105 million in financial assistance to the Middle East countries.

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