Italy Formally Withdraws From Belt and Road Agreement With China

By Jace Dela Cruz

Dec 07, 2023 02:13 AM EST

Italy has officially informed China that it is withdrawing from the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), marking a significant shift in its international economic alliances. 

According to BBC, the administration of Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni notified Beijing of the country's intention to cease participation in the ambitious trade and infrastructure project by the end of the year.

(Photo : PARKER SONG/AFP via Getty Images)
China's President Xi Jinping (L) meets with Italy's Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte (R) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing April 27, 2019

Italy Leaves BRI of China

Italy's initial decision to join the BRI in 2019 made it the only major Western nation to join the initiative that was introduced by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013. 

The BRI aimed to invest around $1 trillion across Asia and Europe, focusing on projects, including new and enhanced railways and ports to enhance connectivity between China and other parts of Asia and Europe.

The move to join the BRI drew criticism from the United States and other nations, with the US characterizing the initiative as "debt-trap diplomacy." The US argued that China's ambitious plans involved large projects that countries could not sustainably finance, giving Beijing undue influence for its plans.

Italy's decision to exit the BRI was prompted by concerns about the sustainability of the projects and the potential risks associated with long-term financial commitments. 

The US and other critics have long warned that participation in the BRI could lead to economic dependence on China, enabling Beijing to exert leverage for its geopolitical interests.

READ ALSO: JPMorgan Chase Is Ready to Leave China if Ordered by US Government, Bank CEO Jamie Dimon Says 

Relationship of Italy and China

Italy's membership in the BRI was set to automatically renew in March of the following year unless the country formally withdrew by the end of the current year. 

Meloni, who had previously criticized the decision of a former government to join the initiative, now underscored her commitment to a more independent foreign policy.

However, the Italian government clarified that despite withdrawing from the BRI, it aims to maintain positive relations with China. The decision is not intended to disrupt existing economic ties, as Italy recognizes the importance of trade and cooperation with China. 

READ MORE: Joe Biden's Meeting With Xi Jinping Could Reduce Uncertainty for US-China Businesses, Analysts Say

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