Italy, China sign memorandum deepening economic ties

Italy, China sign memorandum deepening economic ties
Chinese President Xi Jinping, left, and Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte shake their hands at the end of the signing ceremony of a memorandum of understanding at Rome's Villa Madama, Saturday, March 23, 2019. Jinping is in Italy to sign a memorandum of understanding to make Italy the first Group of Seven leading democracies to join China's ambitious Belt and Road infrastructure project. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

ROME (AP) — Italy has signed a memorandum of understanding with China in support of Beijing’s “Belt and Road” initiative, which aims to weave a network of ports, bridges and power plants linking China with Africa, Europe and beyond.

Premier Giuseppe Conte and Chinese President Xi Jinping shook hands during a ceremony in Rome on Saturday, after 29 separate sections of the memorandum were signed by members of both governments.

With the memorandum, Italy becomes the first member of the Group of Seven major economies that includes the United States, to join Belt and Road, following Portugal’s embrace of the initiative in December.

Italy’s involvement gives China a crucial inroad into Western Europe and a symbolic boost in its economic tug-of-war with Washington.