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Giorgia Meloni, Italy's right-wing prime minister, is not getting along with China in the G-7, which is complicating Chinese President Xi Jinping's attempt to lure a few European Union countries away from U.S. policy. The Italian prime minister, who has been in power for less than a year, is considering pulling out of an agreement to join Xi's controversial Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). A program that has funded U.S.$900 billion worth of global infrastructure projects.
While Meloni referred to the BRI as "a big mistake" in 2019, Italian government officials first raised the issue of pulling out of the agreement during talks with Taiwan earlier this week.
Given that Italy was the first G-7 country to agree to be part of the BRI, Meloni's pullout, if it comes to fruition, would likely come as a huge blow to the Chinese initiative. The BRI is a critical component of Xi's larger vision for Beijing's expansion globally.
Italy initially agreed to join the initiative under prime minister Giuseppe Conte, which has been widely viewed as the catalyst for increased engagement between Washington and Rome to ensure that Italy doesn't come under further influence from China.
Francesca Ghiretti, an analyst with the Mercator Institute for China Studies told Bloomberg, "Italy is stuck between a rock and a hard place, and what to do with the cooperation pact is a real diplomatic conundrum for Meloni."
"Renewing it would send a very difficult message to Washington, but not renewing it would put a strain in relations with China," Ghiretti added.
Meanwhile, according to Zerohedge, Italy's governing coalition remains divided on the issue with Meloni's Brothers of Italy appearing to be more in favor of withdrawing from the agreement. Although still uncertain, some anticipate Meloni to have a statement prepared on the matter by the May G-7 summit in Hiroshima.
When Italy initially agreed to join the pact, Xi cited improving connectivity between Chin and Italy by building ports as a top priority of the BRI in Italy. According to polling from previous years, many Italians see joining the BRI as an opportunity. However, there are a few Italians who view the initiative as a threat.
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