Italy Officially Withdraws from China's "Belt and Road" Initiative
The Italian government has confirmed that the country is withdrawing from China's "Belt and Road Initiative" (BRI). In the administration of Giorgia Meloni, it was stated that Italy would cease its participation in this project by the end of the current year, as reported by the BBC.
The country's membership in the BRI was set to automatically renew in March of the following year unless Italy notified China of its withdrawal by the end of the current year. It is now evident that Italy will not renew its participation, and it will exit the project. Earlier, Giorgia Meloni referred to the previous government's decision to join the BRI as a "serious mistake" and announced the intention to withdraw from the initiative. However, her government emphasized the commitment to maintaining good relations with China despite this step.
The "Belt and Road" project was launched by China in 2013, aiming to attract approximately $1 trillion in investments in Asia and Europe for the construction and modernization of transportation routes, including railways and ports, to strengthen the connectivity between China, Europe, and other parts of Asia.
Italy was the only major Western country with a strong economy to join the project in 2019, a move that drew sharp criticism from the United States and other countries at the time. American officials, in particular, pointed out that this project was a glaring example of "debt-trap diplomacy."
In Washington's view, China's plans deliberately involve disproportionately large infrastructure projects that BRI participant countries cannot finance on their own. This gives Beijing leverage to achieve its goals, primarily by providing these countries with substantial loans for projects that benefit China.
Last year, Italian exports to China amounted to €16.4 billion, compared to €13 billion in 2019. Conversely, Chinese exports to Italy increased to €57.5 billion from €31.7 billion during the same period. However, only a portion of the promised Chinese investments in Italy, amounting to €20 billion, materialized, and China engages in much more trade with France and Germany, despite the fact that the two largest economies in the Eurozone are not BRI members.
Recall that in early December, Ukraine and Italy agreed to jointly develop renewable energy. According to the signed document, the countries will cooperate in the field of energy transition and renewable energy sources, especially during Ukraine's post-war recovery and reconstruction to achieve decarbonization goals for the entire energy sector.