The G7 has steered clear of criticising the Belt and Road Initiative after Italy became its first member to sign up for the infrastructure project last month despite growing concerns among many Western nations about Beijing’s influence. Foreign ministers of the Group of Seven nations, which represent the world’s most advanced economies, concluded their two-day annual meeting in Dinard, western France on Saturday with a joint communique that included veiled criticisms of China over issues such as intellectual property theft, market access, its military ambitions and human rights abuses. The Japan Times quoted an unnamed Japanese official as saying that some members had touched on the multibillion-dollar infrastructure project during their discussions, but the final communique made no reference to it. This silence is a possible indicator of the split among world powers on views towards the initiative, which some see as an opportunity but others fear will lure countries deeper into Beijing’s economic orbit and burden them with unsustainable debts. The G7 countries – the US, Canada, Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Japan – have questioned the transparency and intentions behind the Belt and Road Initiative since it was launched in 2013, but Italy became the first member to sign up last week. In doing so it ignored warnings both from the rest of the G7, and also the European Union, which is trying to build a coherent strategy in the face of China’s growing economic and international influence. However, a number of EU members including Portugal and Greece had already signed up for the project and, following Italy’s decision last month, Luxembourg became the latest to jump on the bandwagon. Despite the silence over belt and road, G7 did reach a consensus on other areas concerning China such as calls for it to tackle intellectual property theft and open up its domestic markets – two key areas in the ongoing talks to end the trade war between China and the US. The joint communique said: “We share concerns about China’s industrial strategy, investment practices, inadequate intellectual property protection and restrictions on foreign direct investment, technology licensing and a range of administrative regulations and informal practices, which create challenges for foreign businesses. “We encourage China to uphold its commitments not to engage in malicious cyber activity, including cyber-enabled intellectual property theft with the intent of providing advantages, including to commercial sectors,” the statement said. The communique also criticised China’s mass detention camps in Xinjiang, its military build-up in the South and East China Seas and pushed for it to play a role in the denuclearisation negotiations between North Korea and the US. The EU has expressed increasing concerns in recent months that Beijing’s efforts to sign up European countries to the Belt and Road Initiative are undermining the bloc’s cohesion, concerns shared by France and Germany. Cracks within the G7 have also started appearing following last year’s leaders’ summit in Canada, where US President Donald Trump backed out of a joint communique and became engaged in a public spat with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The US also ignored protocol at the latest G7 summit by sending Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan instead of his boss Mike Pompeo. Washington has also ruled out sending any high-level officials to the second belt and road forum in China later this month.