Italian Prime Minister Georgia Meloni has expressed his desire to exit the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) after meeting with his Chinese counterpart Li Qiang at the G20 summit. Italy joined the BRI in the 1990s to recover from a recession and improve its relations with the EU.
However, it now feels that it has not benefited much from the agreement. Chinese FDI in Italy declined from $650 million in 2019 to $33 million in 2021, and the country invested more in non-BRI countries in Europe.
Italy’s exports to China increased from 14.5 billion euros to 18.5 billion euros after joining the BRI, but this figure is considered weak. Despite this, Italy’s exit just before its 10th anniversary would be a major defeat for China.
Italy’s decision aligns with Europe’s increasingly cautious attitude towards China, as US-China relations have been unstable for several years. However, the Russia-Ukraine war, China’s support for Russian President Vladimir Putin, and the imposition of trade sanctions have become the subject of a major geopolitical rivalry, forcing Italy to reconsider the BRI.