Italy has officially informed China that it is quitting the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), dismissing fears the move might sour relations and damage the Italian economy, government sources said on Wednesday.
Italy in 2019 became the first and so far only major Western nation to join the trade and investment programme, ignoring warnings from the United States that it might let China take control of sensitive technologies and vital infrastructure.
However, when Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni took office last year, she said she wanted to withdraw from the deal, which was championed by President Xi Jinping, saying it had brought no significant gains to Italy.
The 2019 accord expires in March 2024 and an Italian government source said Rome had sent Beijing a letter “in recent days” informing China that it would not be renewing the pact.
There was no immediate comment from China.
“We have every intention of maintaining excellent relations with China even if we are no longer part of the Belt and Road Initiative,” a second government source said.
“Other G7 nations have closer relations with China than we do, despite the fact they were never in (the BRI),” he added.
Italy will assume the presidency of the G7 in 2024.
More than 100 countries have signed agreements with China to cooperate on BRI infrastructure and building projects since the scheme was launched in 2013. The then Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte hoped for a trade bonanza when he signed up in 2019, but Chinese firms seemed to be the main beneficiaries.