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Italy’s possible withdrawal from China’s Belt and Road program could pave the way for future exits

  • Italy’s Prime Minister told reporters on Sunday at a press conference at the conclusion of the Group of 20 leaders’ summit in Delhi that a final decision on leaving the BRI had not yet been made.
  • Italy remains the only group of the 7 industrialized countries that is a signatory to Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative that President Xi Jinping launched a decade ago.
  • Rome is under pressure to reframe its relationship with Beijing to appease its Western allies.

Workers produce large construction materials and equipment for export to countries along the Belt and Road. Hai ‘an city, Jiangsu province, China, June 15, 2020.

Future publications | Future publications | fake images

The withdrawal plan announced by Italy may set a precedent for a constructive exit from China’s global trade and infrastructure initiative, laying the groundwork for future exits.

Italy remains the only group of the 7 industrialized countries that is a signatory to Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative, a centerpiece of President Xi Jinping’s foreign policy program that was launched a decade ago.

At a time of shifting geopolitical alignments that are fragmenting the global economy, Rome is under pressure to recast its relationship with Beijing to placate its Western allies as Italy takes over the rotating presidency of the Group of 7 developed economies in 2024.

“The idea in Washington is that if Italy withdraws and does so with some degree of real collaboration and smiles at Beijing – that is, without sanctions or informal retaliation – what this will mean is that other Western European countries, perhaps even the Eastern European countries that make up the majority of BRI participants could withdraw,” Giulio Pugliese, a professor at the University of Oxford’s School of Global and Area Studies, told CNBC. Squawk Asia Box Thursday.

“Let’s not forget that many Baltic states and many other Central and Eastern European countries, besides Hungary, are quite skeptical about China’s role today,” Pugliese said.

China’s ambitious Belt and Road project is a complex network of infrastructure links connecting China with countries in Asia, Africa, Europe and Latin America through railways, pipelines, roads and highways.

Italy’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni told reporters. Sunday at a news conference during the Group of 20 leaders’ summit in Delhi that Rome was still considering whether to abandon the BRI.

The current Italian government does not consider that its membership in the BRI has sufficiently benefited its economy. Roma has until December to formally withdraw or its membership will be renewed for another five years.

Meloni met with Chinese Premier Li Qiang on Saturday on the sidelines of the G20 summit.

The meeting “confirmed the common intention to consolidate and deepen the dialogue between Rome and Beijing on major bilateral and international issues,” according to a reading of the meeting Meloni’s office provided.

His comments came after US President Joe Biden, along with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, announced a plan to develop a network of railways and sea routes that will connect India, the European Union and countries in the East. Middle, such as Israel, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. and the United Arab Emirates—in “a transformative regional investment“.

The Americans have framed their new initiative as a way to counter China’s influence in the energy-rich Middle East, but also to compete with China’s Belt and Road global infrastructure initiative.

“There are European nations that in recent years have not been part of the Belt and Road, but have been able to forge more favorable relations (with China) than we have sometimes achieved,” Meloni said on Sunday.

“The question is how to ensure a partnership that is beneficial to both sides, leaving aside the decision we will make on the BRI,” he added.

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