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Italy primed to integrate with BRI projects

By Cecily Liu | China Daily UK | Updated: 2018-12-07 02:04
Italian Finance Minister Giovanni Tria speaks at the Boao Forum for Asia Rome Conference on Wednesday. [Photo provided to China Daily]

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

Tria added that China's further reform and opening-up will unleash vast bilateral cooperation opportunities, 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 BRI) integration not only to realise all possible advantages of participating in major infrastructural projects, but also in the longer term to maintain a strategic position in the trade routes of the BRI," said Tria.

"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.

Tria was speaking on the sidelines of the Boao Forum for Asia Rome Conference, 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 trends.

Italy's keen desire for BRI engagement was demonstrated by Italian Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio announcing in Beijing in September that Italy wants to be the first G7 country to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with China on BRI collaboration.

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

For Tria, Italy's BRI engagement vision is clear and structured on the three levels of direct infrastructural engagement, geographical connection and growing exports to emerging markets along the BRI trade routes.

Firstly, he encouraged Italian companies in the sectors of consulting, feasibility studies, design, engineering, logistics, machinery, construction, monitoring and IT, security, financial and insurance services to actively seek deals on BRI infrastructure projects.

Secondly, he said Italy should strengthen its ports facilities and efficiency so they could leverage on Italy’s geographical location between Asia, Europe and Africa to handle more trade flowing between these regions.

Thirdly, Italian companies, particularly in the sectors of agriculture and food, sustainable technologies, pharmaceuticals, tourism and design sectors, should consider the growing consumption power of new BRI markets' and the allied opportunity to strengthen exports.

As a signal of Italy's enthusiasm to foster 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 China's incredible transformation over the past 40 decades, a process started with its reform and opening-up policy in 1978.

Between 1977 – 1979, as a young student at the Sapienza University of Rome, Tria went to Beijing to complete an economic research project, and stayed to gain work experience with a publisher in Beijing.

Recollecting his first impressions of China, he said: "It was an important country, with a very old culture, which needed to develop its economy.

"China back then, and China today, are very different worlds."

Looking back, he said it was China's long-term policy vision that played a key role in fuelling its economic miracle. "It is possible for China to set a strategy, and implement that strategy, that long term vision and consistency is crucial."

With China's economic miracle, it has since led a shift of economic weight from the West to the East, Tria observed, adding that it is particularly encouraging to see China increasingly shouldering a responsibility to advocate sustainable and equitable globalization and open trade.

"China is taking a leadership in maintaining free trade, and actively collaborating with international partners. The world cherishes that leadership, because collaboration and not confrontation is the way forward."

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