China, August 26:
China and Italy have reportedly signed two new energy and trade agreements, which an observer said would help Italy’s virus-battered economy to recover, while having a demonstrable effect on the economy and trade between China and the EU under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) framework.
Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi Tuesday inked two new trade deals with Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio as part of his official visit to a number of EU countries including Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, France and Germany, AFP reported.
Di Maio said the latest agreements covered natural gas from Snam, Europe’s biggest pipeline operator, and the export of “Made in Italy” food products to China, as well as “important partnerships in the energy and transport sector,” the AFP report said.
“Given that the Italian economy has been hit hard by the pandemic, reaching deals in infrastructure and trade don’t just aid Italy’s economic recovery, but ensure stability of the global industrial supply chain,” Cui Hongjian, director of EU Studies at the China Institute of International Studies, told the Global Times Wednesday.
Since COVID-19 hit, foreign trade between China and Italy dropped 7.7 percent year-on-year to $2.91 billion during the first seven months.
“With an already sound foundation, the two countries should further increase mutual political trust to resist external pressures and maintain a long-term cooperation,” Cui said, referring to the US government threatening a number of European countries to turn against China’s rise.
In 2019, Italy became the first major European country to sign an agreement with China for jointly building the “Belt and Road Initiative”. Over the past year, the two sides have achieved significant results in sectors including energy, cruise manufacturing, port building and third-party markets.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Italy, Wang said during a talk with his Italian counterpart, adding that the two countries should take advantage of the momentum and push for new progress in bilateral relations.
China and Italy should focus on BRI cooperation, Wang said, urging the two sides to make good use of the fast track for personnel exchanges; accelerate production resumption; hold the China-Italy BRI entrepreneurs conference in 2021; and promote the joint construction of the BRI to achieve more visible results.
Now, China has become the largest Asian trading partner for Italy, while Italy is the fourth largest EU trade partner for China. With both holding an open attitude towards each other’s investment, China’s direct investment in Italy has exceeded $10 billion and Italy has more than 6,000 investment projects scattered in China.
“The two sides should boost existing projects and create new ones to demonstrate the positive effects of China expanding its cooperation with the EU,” Cui said, adding that a good example the port of Vado Ligure in Italy which, in partnership with Chinese shipping enterprise COSCO, became one of the most capable terminals in Europe.
Wang stressed that China is ready to work with the EU to complete negotiations for a China-EU investment agreement within 2020, expand cooperation in areas such as the digital economy and combating climate change, and help bolster global economic recovery and development in the post-COVID-19 era.