US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo voiced disappointment on Wednesday after Italy joined China’s “Belt and Road Initiative” of transport and trade links, saying the deal was not in the European nation’s long-term interest.
Italy signed a “non-binding” protocol with visiting President Xi Jinping on Saturday that made it the first nation in the Group of Seven economies to become part of the Chinese project.
“It’s disappointing any time any country begins to engage in behaviour and commercial interactions with China that aren’t straight up,” Pompeo told the House foreign affairs committee in response to a question about the Italian decision.
“We’re saddened because we think the people of those countries ultimately lose.”
Under the initiative, China is funding major rail, road and sea infrastructure as it seeks to increase international trade.
But Pompeo said China practised “debt-trap diplomacy” with its state-owned or state-controlled enterprises looking after only their own interests.
“It may feel good in the moment – you think you got a cheap product or a low-cost bridge or road built. And in the end there will be a political cost attached to that which will greatly exceed the economic value of what you were provided,” he said.
The US has stepped up its warnings about China’s growing economic influence.
It has urged nations not to choose Chinese telecom giant Huawei to upgrade their fifth-generation communications, voicing privacy and security fears.
Critics said the US was trying to shore up its own business interests, which are facing tough competition, with Huawei selling phones that are cheaper than brands such as Apple.
Source: South China Morning Post