Executive Intelligence Review


City of London’s Financial Times Beside Itself over Italy’s Joining Belt and Road

March 6, 2019 (EIRNS)—The City of London mouthpiece Financial Times criticizes Italy for becoming, as they write,

“the first G7 country to formally endorse China’s controversial Belt and Road global investment drive, in a move that has drawn a sharp response from the White House and is likely to cause alarm in Brussels.”

FT has suddenly discovered that Italy is going to sign a memorandum of understanding during President Xi Jinping’s Rome visit scheduled for March 22-23. The daily quotes Undersecretary for the Economic Development Ministry Michele Geraci, who says that

“the negotiation is not over yet, but it is possible that it will be concluded in time for [Xi’s] visit. We want to make sure that ‘Made in Italy’ products can have more success in terms of export volume to China, which is the fastest-growing market in the world.”

FT then quotes U.S. National Security Council spok

esman Garrett Marquis, who makes a scarcely veiled admonition: “We view BRI as a ‘made by China, for China’ initiative. We are skeptical that the Italian government’s endorsement will bring any sustained economic benefits to the Italian people, and it may end up harming Italy’s global reputation in the long run.”

Marquis further warns that U.S. officials had raised concerns about what he called the negative effects of “China’s infrastructure diplomacy,” and urged “all allies and partners, including Italy, to press China to bring its global investment efforts into line with accepted international standards and best practices.”

(EIR notes that Marquis was brought into the National Security Council by John Bolton, for whom he had earlier worked as a spokesman at the Foundation for American Security and Freedom.)

The FT goes on to allege that

“Italy’s support for China’s BRI initiative would undercut U.S. pressure on China over trade and would undermine Brussels’ efforts to overcome divisions within the EU over the best approach to deal with Chinese investments. Italy is a founding member of the EU.”

President Xi will visit Italy on March 22 and meet Italian President Sergio Mattarella, as well as Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, and attend a military ceremony before traveling to Sicily.

They also report that Xi’s visit to Rome would be taking place just after a March 21 European Council meeting in Brussels during which EU member states intend to debate developing a common approach to Chinese investments in the EU. A separate summit at the EU headquarters with representatives from Beijing is scheduled to take place on April 9.

The FT cites diplomats in Brussels and Western European capitals as expressing concern, alleging that “the 16+1 grouping of China and Central and Eastern European states, including 11 EU members, is a Trojan horse to divide the bloc. Beijing has denied this suggestion.” They also worry that, whereas Germany and France have pushed for a tougher policy, other countries including Greece and Portugal, “where Chinese groups have invested billions of euros,” have adopted a more lenient approach.

The article concludes quoting National People’s Congress spokesman Zhang Yesui as saying this week that 67 countries had signed up to the BRI in the past year or so, bringing the total number of countries or international organizations that have formal endorsements to 152. “China takes the issue of debt very seriously and within a project the Chinese side never imposes things, nor, least of all, creates debt traps,” FT quotes Zhang. “Of course, like any international co-operation, some problems and challenges may crop up. With experience it will improve.”