Executive Intelligence Review


Italian Government Ministers Heading to China on Strategic Mission, for ‘Intense Relationships’

Aug. 21, 2018 (EIRNS)—From Aug. 27 to Sept. 2, an Italian government delegation led by Economy [Treasury] Minister Giovanni Tria and Economic Development Undersecretary Michele Geraci—both fluent in Chinese—will visit China to launch concrete Belt and Road cooperation. Whereas Tria will seek help to defend Italy’s sovereign debt, Geraci will discuss investments in Italian infrastructure. Tria’s choice of China as his first trip abroad has already freaked out pro-EU circles, which melt down over such a “breach of tradition,” as usually newly elected government officials will travel first to Brussels, Berlin and/or Paris.

In an interview with Corriere della Sera, Geraci said:

“We want to give China the idea that it is the Italian government, not just some individuals, to open a new road of intense relationships. We will seek investors who could replace the European Central Bank when the purchases of [Treasury notes] BTPs by the ECB will end, at the end of the year. And we want to find occasions of joint businesses.

“China is looking for alternative [financial] investments.... The fact that Italian bonds are higher yields than others is, paradoxically, something that makes them attractive. But in our trip we want to have a systemic approach. [Treasury Minister] Tria will deal more with bonds. I will concentrate on other kinds of cooperation, from the Chinese projects on the Silk Road, to Africa, from immigration to investments in Italy.”

When the interviewer raises the usual concerns against Chinese investments, Geraci replies:

“If the Chinese invest in infrastructure or transportation, I do not see problems. On the contrary. If they build one dock more in an Italian port, they are welcome to. The same goes for the airlines: If they buy a minority share in Alitalia, I do not see a problem. In general, we are not in good shape as concerns infrastructure, and they can make a positive contribution. On infrastructure and transport, China is today the country that knows more.”

China is interested in a port in the northern Adriatic Sea

“to reach Europe with its goods: As far north as possible, because it is cheaper to move cargo by sea than over land. Trieste would be the best solution: Chinese investments to enlarge its capacity, including the logistics. The position of Trieste is optimal: not so much because it is in Italy, but because it is on the border, it has connectivity with Eastern and Northern Europe.”

And again, responding to fears of “Chinese expansionism”: “These fears are coming from Northern Europe. Nobody in Greece is complaining, because the Chinese have enlarged Piraeus.”

And on the so-called “debt trap”:

“I don’t believe that Italy could fall into the so-called debt trap. It depends not on the lender but from the country that receives the investment. Italy has many resources and I think that the Rome-Beijing relationship could be a good partnership. They intervene in one country at a time, in Europe. We have the possibility to be on the forward line in this relationship and we can aim at a privileged relationship.”

Earlier, Corriere had reported that

“the Chinese government aims at involving Rome in its Belt and Road Initiative, the infrastructure project along the global trade routes of the Chinese superpower. They are interested in the southern ports and in Trieste as terminals for cargo ships coming from southern China, through the Indian Ocean and Suez.”