Chinese president signs trade deal with Italy despite United States pushback

The Belt and Road Initiative is aimed at bolstering Beijing’s economic and political reach

The Belt and Road Initiative is aimed at bolstering Beijing’s economic and political reach

Italy approved on Saturday China's Belt and Road (BRI) industrial initiative - this move makes the European country the first member of the Group of Seven (G7) powerful economies to join the Chinese project.

Chinese President Xi Jinping is in Italy Saturday, where he has signed an accord to officially add Italy into its Belt and Road infrastructure plan.

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

Italy is the first Group of Seven nation to volunteer for a role in the massive global program, with a memorandum of understanding that the two sides formally approved at the Renaissance-era Villa Madama in Rome on Saturday. He then traveled to Sicily, where officials hope to attract more Chinese tourism.

The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is aimed at bolstering Beijing's economic and political reach.

The EU, however, is anxious about unfair competition from Chinese companies, which are controlled by the Chinese government and benefit from the state's financial backing.

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. In a sign of opposition, Matteo Salvini, the deputy prime minister and interior minister, stayed away from the official ceremonies with the Chinese delegation.

"Today is a day in which Made in Italy, Italy, Italian companies win", Di Maio told reporters after the signings.

"That is a good colonialization", he said.

Beijing has marketed the initiative as a way to give some of the world's neediest countries a leg up, helping them gain access to more trade and investment. Some governments including the US, Japan and India worry that Beijing is trying to build a China-centered sphere of influence that would undermine their own sway, pulling developing nations into so-called "debt traps", that would give China ever-more control over their territories and economies. Xi said in a speech late previous year that even as China moves closer to the center of the world stage, it will never seek hegemony.

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