“Italy Changes Track: From the Belt and Road to (Re)Alignment with Washington”, Xixi Hong (IAI, Italy)

Italy officially became part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) on 23 March 2019. The announcement came during President Xi Jinping’s state visit to Rome, and made Italy the first G7 member to formally adhere to China’s signature trade and connectivity project. The agreement, which took the form of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), promotes bilateral cooperation in six different areas: (1) policy dialogue; (2) transport, logistics and infrastructure; (3) unimpeded trade and investment; (4) financial cooperation; (5) people-to-people connectivity and (6) green development cooperation. While not legally binding (no specific projects were identified), the signature of the MoU was a deeply symbolic event in the recent history of Italian foreign policy. Italy’s membership in the BRI caused alarm in Europe and the United States and was also contested by Italian opposition parties at the time, who worried that such a move would challenge Italy’s traditional alliance frameworks.

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