Xi recruits Italy populists for global spending plan

ROME: Chinese President Xi Jinping recruited Italy’s populist government into his global Belt and Road development project, with the signing of an accord that has sparked worries in the US and European Union over the Asian power’s push for economic domination.

Italy is the first Group of Seven nation to volunteer for a role in the massive international program, with a memorandum of understanding that the two sides formally approved at the Renaissance-era Villa Madama in Rome last Saturday.

Chinese and Italian companies signed 10 agreements potentially worth as much as 20 billion euros (US$23bil), Deputy Premier Luigi Di Maio said.

“Today is a day in which Made in Italy, Italy, Italian companies win,” Di Maio told reporters after the signings. The memorandum of understanding that he helped formulate as economic development minister is designed to produce even closer business ties in years to come.

The business accords involve firms including energy giant Eni, gas pipeline operator Snam SpA, engineering company Ansaldo Energia SpA, and bank Intesa Sanpaolo.

They also include an agreement between the ports of Trieste and Genova and the China Communications Construction Co.

Government representatives and officials from the two countries signed 19 other accords ranging from countering tax evasion to encouraging start-ups and boosting citrus fruit exports from Italy to China. — Bloomberg

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