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Belt and Road Conference in Milan Previews Beijing Summit

May 10, 2017 (EIRNS)—A conference on the Belt and Road Initiative took place today in Milan, in advance of the Beijing summit. It was organized by the foreign policy establishment—ISPI, SACE (export credits), Italy-China Foundation, and Assolombarda (the Lombardy region’s industrial association). Italian and Chinese representatives were among the speakers on the three panels—"Italian Perspectives along the Silk Roads;" "New Actors and New Strategies;" and "New Business Opportunities." AIIB Vice-President Joachim von Amsberg gave the conclusions, via videoconference.

The meeting was announced in an article in the business daily Il Sole 24 Ore, under the headline "A New Era for the Silk Road," which puts the event in the perspective of the May 14-15 summit.

"Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, who often visited China when he was Foreign Minister, will have a place of honor. The second day of the [Belt and Road] Forum will take place at Yanqi Lake, one-and-a-half hours outside of Beijing, inaugurated November 2014 for APEC. In this context, political meetings on the multilateral and bilateral level are scheduled. The Italian Prime Minister on May 16 will meet with Premier Li Keqiang and President Xi Jinping,"

wrote Il Sole.

Italy will discuss and present possible options for the BRI. One such option is the so-called "Port Way," five ports along the Adriatic Sea. ISPI head Giampiero Massolo is quoted saying that

"Without a role for the system of ports, interports, and land routes in Italy, the entire Belt and Road project is in danger of being incomplete at its terminal part and in one of its main objectives, i.e., connecting China and Europe in a much more efficient way than they are today."

(The Adriatic route is strongly criticized by those who are pushing the development of Southern Italy and the deep-sea ports in Calabria and Sicily, plus modernization of land routes. Those critics, who include some of our contacts, say Italy’s Mezzogiorno is being cut off from the development).

Il Sole, however, wrote that this is not the only option. Another one is participation in investments in Asia. There is the AIIB, but also the Silk Road Fund with $40 billion. The Silk Road Fund is already a shareholder in Pirelli and in the Italian Autostrade holding.