Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi was welcomed by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in Beijing on Wednesday (June 11) as part of his three day visit to China. Li and Renzi held bilateral talks on various topics including economy, energy and infrastructure construction.
Following a China-Italy signing ceremony the Italian prime minister and Chinese premier held a joint news conference. The Chinese Premier talked of the long standing friendship between the two countries and hoped that Italy could help China’s relations with the rest or Europe.
“We both believed we can’t return to Marco Polo’s time, but we hope that between China and Italy there will be more Marco Polo style people making China-Italy relations the forefront of relations between China and Europe,” Li said.
Renzi thanked the Chinese for hosting the talks and said that China and Italy would need to act now to make the comprehensive strategic partnership work.
“I would like to thank the Prime Minister for a very useful and important meeting. But now we have to, and we want to, firmly and promptly take action,” Renzi said. In an interview with China’s official Xinhua news agency ahead of his visit, Renzi said Italy hopes to boost a trade partnership and cultural and political ties with China.
The Italian government will soon begin its six-month rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union from July 1. Renzi said Italy’s priority would be to push forward the European integration process, and he hoped the partnership with China would play a key role in it, Xinhua reported.
During a trip to Europe in March, Xi won a promise from the European Union to consider a multi-billion-dollar free-trade deal with his country, a long-held goal for Beijing which divides Europe. Both China and the EU have something to gain from increased trade. Europe’s economy is barely growing after years of recession and the continent is suffering from near-record unemployment, while China’s much faster growth is cooling.
British Prime Minister David Cameron expressed strong support during a trip to Beijing in December for such a deal, but many other EU members including France, Italy and Spain are wary, saying China tries to dominate European markets with cheap, subsidised exports.
Europe is China’s most important trading partner, while for the EU, China is second only to the United States. Trade between the EU and China has doubled since 2003 to more than 1 billion euros ($1.4 billion) a day.