ROME (Reuters) – Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni outlined Italy’s plan to pull out of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) during a meeting with Chinese Premier Li Qiang at the G20 summit, Italian media reported on Sunday.
Italy, seeking to minimise any backlash from the decision from Beijing, would as a replacement aim to revitalise a strategic partnership agreement with China, aimed at fostering economic cooperation, it first signed in 2004.
Italy is the only G7 nation to sign up to the BRI, a global trade and infrastructure plan modelled on the old Silk Road that linked imperial China and the West.
“The prime minister (Meloni) communicated the intention to quit the project to her counterpart,” the Corriere della Sera daily reported, saying Premier Li had made a last attempt to persuade the Italians to rethink.
Italian politicians have questioned the value of the BRI agreement signed by a previous administration in 2019, which has been a source of friction with Western allies due to wariness about spreading Chinese influence.
The Italians told the Chinese that their decision had not been dictated by the United States, the report added, comments echoed by similar reports in other Italian newspapers.
Italy has the G7 presidency next year and recasting its relationship with Beijing would placate its Western allies.
Meloni and Li held talks at the G20 summit in New Delhi on Saturday to discuss deepening relations, Meloni’s office said in a statement.
“Italy and China share a Global Strategic Partnership whose 20th anniversary will recur next year and which will be the beacon for the advancement of friendship and cooperation … in every area of common interest,” the statement added.
(Reporting by Federico Maccioni and Keith Weir; editing by Mark Heinrich)