Italy primed for BRI in­te­gra­tion, coun­try’s fi­nance min­is­ter says

China Daily - - TOP NEWS - By CE­CILY LIU in Rome ce­[email protected]­nadai­

Italy stands ready to em­brace the Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive as the next key growth driver for the coun­try’s econ­omy, Ital­ian Fi­nance Min­is­ter Gio­vanni Tria said on Wed­nes­day.

Tria added that China’s fur­ther re­form and open­ing-up will un­leash vast op­por­tu­ni­ties for co­op­er­a­tion, and em­pha­sized the two coun­tries’ shared vi­sion to up­hold glob­al­iza­tion and un­der­pin their ever-closer re­la­tions.

“Italy must be ac­tively in­volved in the process” of in­te­grat­ing the ini­tia­tive, Tria said, “not only to re­al­ize all the ad­van­tages of par­tic­i­pat­ing in ma­jor in­fra­struc­ture projects but also, in the longer term, main­tain­ing a strate­gic po­si­tion in the trade routes.”

“The BRI is a train that Italy must not miss. Ital­ian com­pa­nies’ par­tic­i­pa­tion in projects, in­clud­ing those in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Chi­nese com­pa­nies in third-coun­try mar­kets, are par­tic­u­larly im­por­tant,” Tria said on the side­lines of the Boao Fo­rum for Asia’s Rome con­fer­ence, which was at­tended by 300 po­lit­i­cal, busi­ness and aca­demic lead­ers across 15 coun­tries. The BRI was a hot topic, with many speak­ers hail­ing it as an im­por­tant sta­bi­lizer of glob­al­iza­tion.

Italy’s keen de­sire for en­gage­ment with the ini­tia­tive was demon­strated by Ital­ian Deputy Prime Min­is­ter Luigi Di Maio’s an­nounce­ment in Bei­jing in Septem­ber that Italy wants to be the first of the G7 in­dus­tri­al­ized coun­tries to sign a mem­o­ran­dum of un­der­stand­ing with China about BRI col­lab­o­ra­tion.

In Au­gust, the Ital­ian gov­ern­ment es­tab­lished a China task force to help Ital­ian com­pa­nies re­al­ize BRI op­por­tu­ni­ties.

For Tria, Italy’s vi­sion for en­gage­ment is clear and built at three lev­els: di­rect in­fra­struc­ture en­gage­ment, geo­graph­i­cal con­nec­tion and grow­ing ex­ports to emerg­ing mar­kets along the BRI trade routes.

First, he en­cour­aged Ital­ian com­pa­nies in a wide range of sec­tors — from con­sult­ing, de­sign and en­gi­neer­ing to lo­gis­tics, ma­chin­ery, IT, se­cu­rity, and oth­ers — to ac­tively seek deals on BRI in­fra­struc­ture projects.

Se­cond, he said Italy should strengthen its ports and ef­fi­ciency so it can lever­age its geo­graph­i­cal lo­ca­tion be­tween Asia, Europe and Africa to han­dle more trade flow­ing be­tween these re­gions.

Third, Ital­ian com­pa­nies, par­tic­u­larly in the sec­tors of agri­cul­ture and food, sus­tain­able tech­nol­ogy, phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals, tourism and de­sign, should con­sider the grow­ing con­sump­tion power of new BRI mar­kets’ and the op­por­tu­nity to boost ex­ports.

As a sig­nal of Italy’s en­thu­si­asm about fos­ter­ing deeper China ties, Tria vis­ited the na­tion on his first over­seas trip out­side Europe since tak­ing of­fice this June.

Eco­nomic en­gage­ment aside, Tria speaks warmly about China as a close ob­server of its dra­matic trans­for­ma­tion over the past four decades, a process that started with the launch of re­form and open­ing-up in 1978.

Look­ing back, he said, it was China’s long-term pol­icy vi­sion that played a key role in fu­el­ing its eco­nomic mir­a­cle.

“It is pos­si­ble for China to set a strat­egy and im­ple­ment that strat­egy,” Tria said. “That long-term vi­sion and con­sis­tency is cru­cial.”

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