Billions of investments and closer trade relations – Italy has signed the controversial Silk Road Agreement with China. But even some parts of the Rome government have reservations.
By Jörg Seisselberg, ARD Studio Rome
A special framework for a special signature: Rome and Beijing sealed their new and closer cooperation at Villa Madama, the splendid representation of the Italian government that built Monte Mario over the roofs of the capital. Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and Chinese leader Xi Jinping signed the agreement by which Italy joins the so-called Chinese Silk Road Project.
Along with this declaration of intent, another 29 agreements have been concluded, including ten binding economic agreements. Italian companies receive orders for several billion euros, including the construction of steelworks in China, the supply of gas turbines, the construction of gas networks, but also the export of agricultural products such as oranges and pork . On the contrary, Beijing will invest in the ports of Genoa and Trieste.
New commercial and transportation networks
With Silk Road Project, China wants to build new commercial and transport networks between continents. Critics fear that Beijing wants to expand its economic but also political influence throughout the world through the project. The Italian government is clearly not impressed by the skeptical tone of its partners in the EU.
Yesterday, the Minister of Economy Luigi Di Maio of the Five-Star Movement stressed that he was proud of the fact that Italy was the first country of the seven major G7 economies to join the Silk Road project: "L & # 39; Italy is finally the first Seeing the reactions of other European countries, we understand that this is a great opportunity for our companies to trade ".
Especially in light of the currently mediocre economic data, Italy expects to gain ground from cooperation with China. The populist government in Rome does not hide the fact that with the agreement with Beijing, it puts national interests first. The Minister of Economic Affairs Di Maio has openly declared:
"I have always looked to President Trump with great interest and admiration when he says America first, and let's say first in Italy, in trade relations, that does not change the fact that we are allies of the United States, that we remain in NATO and in the European Union ".
Agreement as a one-way street?
Conte and Xi have not released further public statements after today's signing. According to the Italian press, Conte underlined once again, in an interview with Xi, Rome's desire to further improve its already good relations with China.
Italian president Sergio Mattarella had asked Beijing that the agreement should not be a one-way street. Moreover, Mattarella, who comes from the opposition Democratic Party, promises that Italy will seek a dialogue with China on the subject of human rights. Among the other, the Minister of the Interior Matteo Salvini of the xenophobic League commented on the agreement with China. Italy, according to Salvini, should be "nobody's colony".