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Italy likely to dump China’s BRI, Taiwan to benefit as trade winds change direction

Italian Prime Minister Georgia Melanie (Photo: IANS)

Italy is thinking of moving away from China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in favour of Taiwan’s chip-manufacturing industry with a view to making Italy a manufacturing and export hub for semiconductors.

Italian officials recently visited Taiwan to discuss the production and export of semiconductors with help from the Taiwanese industry. Taipei Times reported recently that the Italian minister for business had sent another delegation for semiconductor talks to South Korea as well.

Reports say that Rome is keen to invite the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company Ltd (TSMC) to set-up a factory in Italy.

Rome’s actions show global anxiety, and the race, over the supply of semiconductors and protecting supply chains disrupted by the spread of Covid from China. The new thinking in Rome is to reduce technology dependence on China – which is now becoming a global trend as countries try to wean off China.

The government of Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, that took over power last year, has been thinking of dumping the BRI and instead strengthening trade relations with Taiwan. The island nation in the East China Sea has opened up another representative office in Milan in Italy to further economic ties.

Italy, one of the manufacturing powerhouses in Europe, is strategically important considering that it is a member of the European Union, NATO as well as G7. Rome had startled the European Union in 2019 by joining the BRI, China’s global infrastructure and transport corridor, going against the prevailing European sentiment at that time.

Signing a pact with China over the BRI did not bring gains for Italy but was touted as an achievement for Beijing. Italy was the only European country to have warmed up to the BRI. That relationship is now unravelling as geopolitical and trade winds change direction across the world against China.

TVP World reports that if Italy does not terminate the agreement, it will get automatically renewed in 2024.

Italy’s decision will be a shot in the arm for a democratic Taiwan, which has been withstanding President Xi Jinping’s maritime and airborne pressure tactics for years. Beijing has often publicly announced plans to takeover Taiwan in a military assault, heightening tensions in the entire Asia Pacific region.

A communist China looks at Taiwan as a breakaway region while the island nation asserts itself as a democratic nation that had split from the mainland in 1949 after a civil war.

The BRI was in news recently after a Chinese research study said that the country can possibly build its most expensive BRI project – a $56 billion railway line from the tense Xinjiang region to the Gwadar port in the disputed Balochistan province of Pakistan.

Italy’s decision to withdraw from the BRI comes at a time when the EU has tied itself up in knots on how do deal with China without risking its own needs and economic growth. It also takes place when Germany is rethinking on its initial plans to give a substantial stake in its Tollerort terminal at the Hamburg port to Chinese State firm Cosco.

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