Financial cooperation is essential to boosting bilateral economic ties, providing firms with more effective instruments to operate in foreign markets. It should come as no surprise, then, that financial cooperation was a pillar of the 2019 Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) reached between Italy and China in support of the latter’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). However, a preliminary analysis of BRI-related commercial agreements between Italian financial institutions and their Chinese counterparts shows that they have not resulted in any ground-breaking development. These Memoranda have apparently just added a “BRI” badge to pre-existing trends of collaboration. The BRI-related MoUs in the field of financial cooperation do not, for the time being at least, justify concerns that China may gain an economic foothold in Italy large enough to win it much political influence. A more realistic risk is that these MoUs may undermine a common European approach to China, weakening the negotiating stance of the European Union’s.
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