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‘Just jealous’: Italy responds to criticism for joining China’s Belt and Road Initiative

‘Just jealous’: Italy responds to criticism for joining China’s Belt and Road Initiative
Europe and the US should take care of their own debts to China before advising Italy about the risks of joining Beijing’s ‘Belt and Road Initiative,’ said Michele Geraci, undersecretary of state at the Italian Economy Ministry.

Italy has become the first G7 nation to join China’s ambitious plan to revolutionize global trade, making other eurozone majors “jealous” of the move, according to Geraci.

“In reality, all European countries want to be part of the Belt and Road,” the top official told the South China Morning Post on the sidelines of the ongoing Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) annual conference in China’s southern Hainan province.

According to Geraci, who led Italy’s talks with China on the memorandum of understanding, other European states will follow suit and sign the document in the near future.

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His comments came ahead of the EU-China summit in Brussels on April 9, and shortly after German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the EU wants to actively participate in the China-led project. However, nations of the bloc need certain reciprocity from Beijing, according to Merkel, who held a joint news conference after meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The EU had previously warned Rome against unilateral negotiations with China. France called for a more unified approach towards Beijing that “took advantage” of divisions among the European nations.

“When we were criticized – me personally, also – for taking care of all of this over the last few months, it’s because we… want to lead, and leading means doing things first,” Geraci said, stressing that the outside criticism had helped make Rome “even more alert” towards the deal with its Chinese partners.

According to the official, Italy could become the terminal of China’s Silk Road, thus affecting major European port cities like Hamburg, Rotterdam, Marseilles. Joining the project may spur Italian economic growth after last year’s recession.

Also on rt.com Germany wants Europe to join China's new Silk Road after criticizing Italy for doing the same

Moreover, Geraci advised the EU and the US, which also slammed the move over alleged risks of debt overburden for Italy, should worry about their own debts to China.

“The US was not very happy, we did what we think is in the interest of our country,” the official said. “We can be a competitor with China but we also can cooperate because China has the size, and we have the know-how and quality.”

“We’re not Greece, we’re Italy… We are a $1.7-trillion economy. How can we fall into a debt trap? It happens in Sri Lanka, Malaysia, maybe Pakistan… but it cannot happen in Italy.”

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