Italy Intends to Exit China Belt and Road Pact as Relations Sour
Chiara Albanese and Alessandro Speciale
09 May 2023
Italy has signaled to the US that it intends to pull out of a controversial investment pact with China before the end of the year.
Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni reassured US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy during a meeting in Rome last week that while a final decision hasn’t been taken, her government is favoring an exit from its role in China’s massive Belt and Road Initiative, according to people present at the talks.
Italy signed onto the infrastructure initiative in 2019 when Giuseppe Conte was premier, becoming the only Group of Seven country to become part of the deal. Participation will automatically renew in 2024 unless Rome actively exits the agreement.
Italy, like much of Europe, has been caught between escalating tensions between Washington and Beijing, which have compounded in light of Beijing’s continued support for Russia. European countries are struggling to balance a desire to engage with China on trade and investment while pushing back against claims of economic coercion.
A spokesperson for Meloni declined to comment. McCarthy’s office didn’t respond to requests for comment.
The US has actively pressured Rome to take a public stance on the issue, and ditch the pact, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the discussions are private.
Meloni’s diplomatic advisers are still discussing the details and timing of a decision, fearing economic retaliation from China, and nothing will likely be made public before the start of the G-7 leaders summit in Hiroshima, Japan, on May 19, according to the people.