Italy’s top negotiator in a landmark agreement with China has continued to brush off criticism from the deal’s detractors, telling the U.S. specifically to worry about its own financial ties to the economic superpower in the East.
Italian Undersecretary of Economic Development Michele Geraci spoke Wednesday at the Boao Forum for Asia annual conference in China’s southernmost island province of Hainan about the recent memorandum of understanding signed by Beijing and Rome.
The move joined Rome with China’s Belt and Road Initiative. This made Italy the first of the elite G7 economic group to join Chinese President Xi Jinping’s ambitious, global infrastructure plan Belt and Road, which has been met with deep suspicion in the West.
The U.S. has been particularly critical about the project, which Washington views as challenging its own international economic agenda.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday that it was “disappointing anytime any country begins to engage in behavior and commercial interactions with China that aren’t straight up.”
Pompeo said he was “saddened” over Italy’s move, which Geraci championed on the same day at Boao.
“The U.S. should worry about having debt in Chinese hands,” Geraci told the South China Morning Post, indicating Beijing’s possession of some $1.13 trillion in U.S. Treasury bills, notes and bonds. “They are in a situation where they need to be concerned, that’s why maybe they worry.”