The visit's outcome
reflects deepening relations between the Eurozone's third-largest
economy and the Asian powerhouse.
The decision to sign up to the initiative bears the stamp of the Five Star Movement, the euro-critic, anti-establishment party that, along with the far-right League, governs the country in a populist coalition.
the head of the League and deputy prime minister, took a more
circumspect view of the deal, but expressed support as long as it
did not undermine Italy's national interests.
The National Security Council's official Twitter account also warned Italy about siding with America's trade rival.
The White House, already at odds with Beijing due to bilateral trade tensions, fears that providing China a gateway into Italy - which is crammed with NATO bases and is pivotal for maintaining fragile geopolitical balances in the Mediterranean region - is a risky move that could dangerously increase Chinese clout.
The Trump administration also worries it will help Chinese firms gain access to key sectors of EU members' economies, particularly telecommunications.
So far, Washington has
failed to convince Italy and most of its European partners to ban
China's Huawei from being involved in their next-generation
5G networks, escalating espionage
A week before Xi's visit, the European Commission released a paper (EU-China - A Strategic Outlook) describing China as an,
To date, about a dozen EU countries
have signed formal agreements
on the Belt and Road Initiative.
But none rival Italy's economic weight
or political significance within the EU.
To date, about a dozen EU countries, including,
...have already signed formal agreements with Beijing on the BRI.
But none rival Italy's
economic weight or political significance within the EU.
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, who is expected to attend the second Belt and Road summit in Beijing next month, echoed Xi's statement, claiming that the framework is,
Conte also said that the
non-binding and doesn't involve telecom technology.
In a CNBC interview, he said the partnership is a way to boost trade and the economies of the countries involved and an opportunity for Italian businesses to expand into China.
Currently, he claimed,
Italy's trade with China is lagging 20 years behind that of its
Some critics cited the case of the Piraeus port in Greece, which China essentially acquired.
the head of the Trieste port authority - one of the Italian ports
involved in the deal unveiled last weekend, along with those of
Palermo, Genoa and Ravenna - rejected that comparison, saying during
a radio show that China will only be granted infrastructure
concessions and that Italian law makes such a takeover impossible.
others, it's too
early to claim that the Italy-China deal will bring significant
changes in the countries' respective foreign policies, or to say
that China represents a real challenge for the liberal order that
continues to govern Europe, even if it has lost ground globally.
By signing the agreement, Italy's populist coalition government is breaking ranks with the Euro-Atlantic alliance, challenging the Trump administration and emphasizing the unresolved debate within Europe on how to deal with China's mounting global ambitions.
Whether it is a harbinger
of growing Chinese influence in Europe or a banal bilateral
commercial accord will depend on the EU's ability to bridge its
internal differences and adopt a common stance on the challenge that