March 20, 2019 / 6:57 AM / a month ago

Xi says China ready to take ties with Italy into new era

FILE PHOTO: Chinese President Xi Jinping attends the opening session of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China March 3, 2019. REUTERS/Jason Lee

MILAN (Reuters) - China is ready to strengthen its “global strategic partnership” with Italy, Chinese President Xi Jinping wrote in an Italian daily on the eve of his visit to the euro zone’s third-largest economy.

“With my visit I wish to set out together with Italian leaders the guidelines for bilateral relations and take them into a new era,” Xi said in an article in Corriere della Sera.

Italy has alarmed the United States and euro zone partners by planning to join China’s Belt and Road initiative, a multi-billion-dollar project which is at the heart of Beijing’s foreign policy strategy and represents Xi’s signature diplomatic and trade push.

Italian leaders have played down the implications of the accord, saying it carries no binding obligations and does not herald wider cooperation between Beijing and Rome.

But Xi said China was ready to coordinate more closely with Italy over international issues such as climate change, including cooperation within multilateral organisations.

“Italy is open to consolidating communications and synergies with Italy within the United Nations, the G20, the ASEM and the WTO,” he wrote.

He also said China and Italy could develop cooperation projects in sectors such as ports, shipping, telecoms and pharmaceuticals and encourage their respective companies to cooperate in third countries.

Reporting by Valentina Za, editing by Stephen Jewkes and Andrew Heavens

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