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Italy – China: economic potential and pledge for human rights

Relations between Italy and China are good, diversified and rest on a centuries-old friendship, but there is still potential to be tapped and for bilateral economic relations to meet expectations. This was the message that Minister Emma Bonino underscored at the end of a meeting this morning in Rome with her Chinese counterpart Wang Yi. After their meeting the ministers jointly opened the 5th session of the Italy-China Governmental Committee and signed a joint communiqué that, sector by sector, explored all the fields where bilateral relations could be broadened, not least in light of the 2015 Milan Expo. Minister Bonino compared Italy’s “11 billion” in investments in China to China’s “1 billion” in Italy, pointing out that there was “much potential for further development” of economic relations between the two nations.

Bonino-Wang pledge to promote and defend human rights

Beyond more specifically economic contexts, the two Ministers also discussed a broad range of other topics, from global issues to relations between China and the European Union and preparations for the ASEM summit to be held in Milan in October 2014 during Italy’s Presidency of the European Union. Their focus also turned to the defence of human rights. “The process of improving respect for human rights must be a reciprocal one”, Minister Bonino stressed in the joint press conference with Minister Wang Yi at the end of their bilateral meeting, stopping on one of the 22 points of their joint communiqué, in which the two ministers “reaffirm the pledge to promote and defend human rights, and agree on the advisability of developing exchanges and collaboration between the European Union and China in matters of human rights on the basis of the principles of equality and mutual respect”.

Bonino, resolving economic “asymmetries” through Destinazione Italia

“Italy issues one quarter of all the Schengen visas issued to Chinese visitors to Europe”, Minister Bonino pointed out, noting the two countries’ “dense network of business, scientific, university and territorial relations”. A network that, according to Bonino, will soon receive an additional boost with the new Italian Consulate opening in January 2014 in Chonquing, in south-central China. Nevertheless, Minister Bonino observed, Italy and China can do more. “Italy aims to resolve existing bilateral economic asymmetries” that, to date, see eleven billion in Italian investments in China against China’s one billion in Italy. The head of Italian diplomacy underscored that “it is up to Italy to do its part and we are preparing to do so through Destination Italia”, a project whose aim is to “render our country more favourable to Italian and foreign investments”.

Expo 2015 an extraordinary opportunity

The 2015 Milan Expo will be a perfect springboard for strengthening bilateral economic cooperation, and is an event to which China intends to give its “full support”, considering it “an effective platform for the development of economic relations”, said Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi, who thanked Italy for its support for the 2010 Shanghai Expo and recalled that China would have no less than three pavilions in Milan, one governmental and two private. In their joint communiqué the two ministers also confirmed their “pledge to collaborate on the success of the 2015 Expo, in the common awareness that it will offer an extraordinary opportunity to promote an exchange of experiences and skills in the field of nutrition, as well as to strengthen bilateral ties”.

The same communiqué outlined a serious of high-tech sectors, in which Italy has proven expertise, that would be most likely to attract greater Chinese investments in Italy – environmental protection, renewable energy, energy efficiency, aerospace, aviation, mechanics, ICT, nanotechnology, biomedicine, ship building, hydrocarbon fuel exploration and design – and the great potential for investment in industrial upgrade and new projects and in logistical, infrastructure, commercial and tertiary sectors.

Italy an important partner and a bridge to Europe, says Wang Yi

But, for China, Italy’s role goes beyond economic spheres. “China considers Italy one of its most important partners, and a positive force in encouraging relations between China and Europe”, said Minister Wang Yi at the end of the bilateral meeting, underscoring that “stability in our relations could offer a positive impression to both Italian and Chinese business persons”.