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US principal ally, but Italy 'independent': Minister
US principal ally, but Italy 'independent': Minister

Rome, March 27 (IANS/AKI) Italy views America as its chief ally, but is "an independent country" that will seize new trade opportunities like the multi-billion dollar Belt and Road infrastructure project with China, Industry and Welfare minister Luigi Di Maio said on Tuesday as he began a three-day US visit.

"I will meet members of the administration (of United States President Donald Trump) during the trip," Di Maio told Corriere della Sera newspaper.

"The US is our principal ally and my visit will be an opportunity to underscore this in a concrete way," said Di Maio, who is also Deputy Premier.

Italy has always had "solid bilateral ties" with the US, he underlined.

"We are a NATO member and well aware of our alliances but we are an independent country that can go after new business opportunities such as the new Silk Road project," Di Maio said.

Italy on Saturday became the first European Union and G7 country to join China's massive Belt and Road Initiative, drawing concern from the US and European allies over the Asian power's push for economic domination.

The Italian government's signing of a preliminary accord on the BRI took place during a visit to Rome by Chinese President Xi Jinping that saw a total of 29 deals signed worth a total of $2.8 billion.

The potential value of those business accords with the Chinese is as much as 20 billion euros, giving Italy's recession-hit economy a much-needed boost, according to Di Maio.

The raft of deals are part of the BRI - a global trade project aimed at connecting Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Europe via a network of ports, railways, tunnels and other infrastructure.

During his visit to Washington, Di Maio plans to assuage concerns over the BRI project, which comes as the US and China negotiate to end a protracted trade war and amid US concerns at the security threat posed by Chinese telecoms companies, particularly its largest, Huawei.


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