Chinese, Italian leaders pledge mutual support in multilateral blocs

Presidents Xi Jinping, Sergio Matterella also vow to boost cooperation on ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative during visit to Beijing by Italian business delegation

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 22 February, 2017, 10:24pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 22 February, 2017, 11:24pm

China and Italy will strengthen their cooperation in multilateral bodies, their leaders agreed during a meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Italian counterpart Sergio Matterella on Wednesday.

Xi also expressed his support for the continuation of the European Union at a time when the bloc is threatened by a rise in isolationism.

The two leaders witnessed the signing of 13 cooperation agreements, which covered technology and innovation, medical science, cultural exchanges, aerospace, electronics and energy.

Matterella led a business delegation on his first visit to China since taking office in 2015, and said he aimed to strengthen the strategic partnership between the countries during the trip.

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China would work closely with Italy in multilateral blocs such as the Group of 20 and the United Nations, Xi said.

Materella’s visit as there is growing uncertainty over a flurry of upcoming elections in Europe, set against the backdrop of an upsurge in populist political parties.

France, Germany, and the Netherlands will hold elections this year.

Those election results will be closely watched by the international community, especially after last year saw the United Kingdom’s decision in a referendum to leave the EU, and Donald Trump’s victory in the US presidential election.

Ties between China and Italy were tested when the Dalai Lama paid a visit to Milan in October, during which he was made an honorary Milanese citizen.

However, there seemed no awkwardness between the countries’ leaders when they met.

Chen Xu, a senior official in charge of European affairs with China’s foreign ministry, said Xi and Materella “exchanged views in great detail about the situation in Europe and the world situation”.

The countries agreed to boost cooperation under China’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative, Chen said.

Personal links is the key to success of one belt, one road initiative

He added that there was ongoing discussion over the possibility of the Italian leader attending the Silk Road summit in Beijing in May.

Ahead of Matterella’s visit, Licia Mattioli, vice president of Italy’s top business association Confindustria, said in an interview with Italy 24, an Italian website, that cooperation over the new Silk Road was set to be one of the major topics to be discussed by business leaders from both countries.

The Italian president will meet with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Thursday. The Italian delegation will then travel to Shanghai, Chongqing and Xian before returning to Rome on Sunday.

Matterella is the third Italian president to visit China. The last visit by a Italian President was by Giorgio Napolitano in 2010.