US warns Italy against joining China's new Silk Road project
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US warns Italy against joining China's new Silk Road project

In a thinly veiled rebuke of the initiative, which aims to unite European and Asian markets, a spokesman for the White House’s group of national security advisers said on Saturday that Italy’s participation in the BRI would add “legitimacy” to Beijing’s infrastructure project. “Italy is a major global economy and great investment destination. No need for Italian government to lend legitimacy to China’s infrastructure vanity project,” spokesman Garrett Marquis said on Twitter. Italy’s intention to pull itself out of an economic recession that has gripped countries in southern Europe signals an upset for the US and the administration in Washington, which has been actively seeking to curb China's global influence. Marquis had previously claimed that the project was unlikely to “bring any sustained economic benefits to the Italian people,” and that it “may end up harming Italy’s global reputation in the long run.” The White House official had called on “all allies and partners, including Italy, to exert pressure on China to bring its global investment efforts in line with accepted international standards and advanced practices.” The Saturday tweet came after Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said he might sign an accord with Chinese President Xi Jinping later this month, despite reports that Washington was concerned at the prospect of Italy joining the venture. “With all the necessary precautions, Italy’s accession to a new silk route represents an opportunity for our country,” Conte said on Friday, noting that participation in China’s trade master plan would be up for discussion during Xi’s upcoming visit to Italy. The Chinese president is due to travel to Italy from March 22 to 24. Conte has pointed out that Rome and Beijing will seek a framework deal during the state visit. The Italian premier has also announced his plans to attend a BRI summit in China in April. The BRI plan, also known as the One Belt One Road project and championed by Xi, aims to link China by sea and land with southeast and central Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa, through an infrastructure network on the lines of the ancient Silk Road. The US, which is currently engaged in a massive trade dispute with China, views the vast Asian country as a direct threat to its economic dominance and has expressed pessimism about Xi's infrastructure plan. The administration of US President Donald Trump has imposed steep tariffs on billions of dollars worth of Chinese products. Since taking office, Trump has claimed that China’s rise as an exporting powerhouse has hurt US workers and manufacturing. Trump has imposed tariffs on $250 billion in Chinese goods and threatened to target all Chinese exports to the US. Beijing has responded by imposing tariffs on $110 billion in US products. Other trade partners of the US, including the European Union, Canada and Mexico, have also retaliated with tit-for-tat tariffs against American products.

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