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Tajani: China is a strategic partner for Italy (MF)

Tajani: Cina partner strategico per l’Italia (MF)
Tajani: Cina partner strategico per l'Italia (MF)

A new season opens with regard to business relations with China. Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Antonio Tajani had already assured that leaving the Silk Road would not compromise channels with China – on the contrary, it would allow bilateral cooperation to be further developed and strengthened. In December 2023, the decision not to follow up on the memorandum signed in 2019 by the government led by Conte was complemented by the announcement of the intergovernmental meeting on 11 April 2024 in Verona. In this interview with MF-Milano Finanza, Minister Tajani takes stock of the prospects for Italy and the role of the Mixed Economic Commission (CEM).

Question. Minister, what developments might there be in terms of Italy-China relations?

Answer. We want to inaugurate a new phase in bilateral relations and invest in our partnership, this year being the 20th anniversary of the Global Strategic Partnership established between the two countries in 2004 and the 700th anniversary of Marco Polo’s death.

On what basis?

Italy is a strongly export-oriented country, and China remains a strategic economic-commercial partner for us – the first in Asia and the second outside the EU after the United States. The aim is to present to our Chinese counterparts the vast opportunities for trade and investment offered by the Italian entrepreneurial fabric, also in light of the importance that our companies attach to the partnership with China.

Will Verona be the first step?

Yes, I welcomed Chinese Minister of Commerce Wang Wentao to Italy, and co-chaired with him the 15th session of the Italy-China Joint Economic Commission in Verona on 11 April, followed by an important business dialogue forum involving representatives of qualified Chinese and Italian companies.

What are the priority areas for keeping an economic channel open with China?

Within the framework of the Verona events, we have identified agro-industry, e-commerce, investments and the pharmaceutical and biomedical industries.

What about operational initiatives?

We have also decided to organise a roadshow in Italy of the main Chinese e-commerce platforms, which will symbolically start in Verona. It is an initiative that aims at promoting new opportunities for our companies, especially SMEs.

What role will the Joint Economic Commission play?

It is the first important high-level political appointment with China in 2024, following my mission to Beijing in September 2023, and it will enable us to consolidate the current phase of redefining and relaunching bilateral relations. We want to work with our Chinese partners in order to overcome the barriers that hinder access of our products to the Chinese market and address the critical issues reported by our companies, including those related to the protection of intellectual property, as well as facilitate the attraction of Chinese investments in Italy.

Will you also work on connections with China?

Yes, because we want to strengthen the air ones, also in terms of tourism promotion, even with the activation of a direct flight to the Veneto region. With the Business Dialogue Forum, which will take place after the CEM, we will bring the entire business internationalisation hub to Verona, from Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation to Cdp, Simest, Sace and Italian Trade Agency. We need to work with team spirit in favour of our companies, in the wake of “diplomacy of growth”, the strategy that I have inaugurated since my first days at the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

What are the conditions and prospects for Chinese investment in Italy?

We want to attract qualified Chinese investments in Italy, the level of which is currently well below potential, without prejudice to the need to protect national strategic assets. For China as for other international investors, the principle to be complied with is that of the level playing field. The objective is to attract investments aimed at the economic growth of our country, capable of generating wealth and employment and mutually beneficial.

The Verona bilateral also marks the 700th anniversary of Marco Polo’s death. Is there an extra significance to be attached to the anniversary?

Within the strategic partnership with China, the economic-commercial dimension is inseparable from the cultural one. Marco Polo is the symbol of the cultural relationship between our two peoples, the best connection between our two millenary civilisations. That is why I also took part in an event celebrating the figure of Marco Polo together with Minister Wentao, which took place on the morning of 11 April at Ca’ Foscari University of Venice.

Why is Marco Polo so important?
The link between Venice and the East, and China in particular, is perfectly summed up by the life and legacy of Marco Polo. It is therefore a precious opportunity to further explore, in the wake of such an extraordinary explorer and intellectual, the roots and prospects of cooperation between Italy and China.