ROME – Italy is seeking a way to leave China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) without derailing its relations with Beijing, as the Asian giant sees its global economic ambitions undermined.
Confirming its intentions, Rome has joined a project part of the Partnership for Global Infrastructure Investment (PGII) – a West-led initiative for funding infrastructure projects across the world, according to Anadolu Agency.
The PGII includes the new India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC), unveiled at the Group of 20 (G-20) summit in New Delhi on the weekend, and is seen as a counter to the BRI.
The right-wing government of Premier Giorgia Meloni has openly said it is considering exiting the agreement signed with China in 2019, when Italy shocked the US and European partners by becoming the first Group of Seven (G-7) country to join the BRI, the largest-ever global infrastructure project.
Under the initiative, Chinese banks and companies have financed and built everything from power plants, railways, highways and ports to telecommunications infrastructure, fiber-optic cables, and smart cities around the world.
With its five-year memorandum of understanding up for renewal in March 2024, Italy seems poised to withdraw from the deal after expressing frustration with the initiative’s unmet promises.
Italy is expected to announce by December if it is officially ending its participation in the landmark Chinese project, it reported.
Under the original agreement, the two parties can end the deal after five years, otherwise the partnership gets extended for another five-year term.
Italy has until the end of 2023 to inform China on whether it wants to end the deal. – Bernama