Rome, March 21 (IANS/AKI) Italy’s populist Premier Giuseppe Conte will hold talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping here on Saturday during the latter’s visit to Italy aimed at boosting economic and political ties, it was announced on Wednesday.
A ceremony to mark the signing of a series of accords will be attended by Italian ministers and their Chinese counterparts after a handshake in front of the cameras by Conte and Xi, Conte’s office said in a statement.
According to diplomatic protocol, there will be no joint press declarations after the ceremony, the statement noted.
Xi is on a trip to Italy, Monte Carlo and France from Thursday till Tuesday with delegation containing over 500 people, while a further 300 Chinese representatives will take part in a joint business, culture and overseas investment forum in Rome during his visit.
In an article published in leading Italian daily Corriere della Sera on the eve of his visit to Italy – the eurozone’s third largest economy – Xi said China was ready to strengthen its “global strategic partnership” with Italy and enter “a new era” of bilateral relations.
Climate change, including cooperation within multilateral organisations, notably the United Nations, the G20, the ASEM and the WTO were areas where China and Italy were eyeing closer cooperation, Xi said.
Ports, shipping, telecoms and pharmaceuticals were areas where Italy and China could develop cooperation projects, also in third countries, he said.
Italy’s government plans to sign a preliminary accord on China’s new Silk Road – the Belt and Road initiative, a multi-billion-dollar plan that includes rail, road and port projects during Xi’s visit to Rome, Conte said last week.
The BRI accord will lift Italy’s exports while safeguarding its strategic assets, Conte claimed.
Although the government says the accord carries no binding obligations and does not signal wider cooperation between Beijing and Rome, it has alarmed the US and European Union partners, who are wary of China’s ambitions.