Italian official upbeat about ties with China
Last year, Italian government launched Task Force China, an initiative aimed at strengthening economic relationships with China. The bilateral ties between the two countries are expected to reach a new high.
Michele Geraci, Undersecretary of the Italian Ministry of Economic Development, has spent nearly a decade teaching finance at Chinese universities. He recently shared his insights into the prospects of the China-Italy cooperation with Shanghai Daily reporter Cao Xinyu. The following is based on a telephone interview with Michele Geraci.
Q: Italy’s government set up Task Force China last August. As head of it, what kind of fields do you want to work with China?
A: We want to work with China in bilateral trade and improve investment between the two countries.
We also want to work on exchanges in culture, aerospace, infrastructure development, as well as cooperation with China in third countries, like in Africa.
Q: Where do you think Italy is strong and China can learn from?
A: The thing that Italy’s done very well and China can learn from is, first of all, agricultural industry. Italy has advanced agricultural machinery.
The next is aerospace. This is also the area that we want to cooperate with China. For example, Italy has a company called Avio, which is the only space launcher that has never failed a launch. It has achieved 13 successes in a row, a 100 percent success rate.
China can also learn from Italy in design. Italy’s creativity in design has a long tradition. Italy also brings its design and creativity into the industrial world. The manufacturing of precision machinery equipment is another advantage of Italy. Another thing Italy can contribute is lifestyle. The whole concept of Italian lifestyle, including art, culture, entertainment, music, football, history, is something that Italy has preserved very well and is in the mind of every Italian today.
Q: Is there or will there be preferential policies, incentives or tax rebates for Chinese companies investing in Italy?
A: We cannot offer preferential policies based on countries. According to European Union’s regulations, we have to offer equal treatment to everyone.
But this is actually good for China, because it means Chinese companies will be treated exactly like other Italian and European companies. The equal level playing field is indeed positive, for it clarifies the rules of engagement. It is beneficial to Chinese companies, because they don’t need to study any specific preferential treatment. And we are looking at making some changes to tax involving the greenfield investment.
Q: You’re an expert on China. What do you think you can bring to China-Italy relations?
A: My knowledge of China will help the government of Italy, Italian business community and also individuals who understand little about China, because I think there’s a lack of knowledge in Italy about what China is doing.
Perhaps people in Italy have not been curious enough about China, but this means they have missed opportunities. Maybe they are not ready to face challenges.
So my role is to help Italian communities to be aware of China’s development and the opportunities that China can offer. I’m here to explain to Italians about China’s accomplishments based on numbers and analysis.
Italians don’t know much about the fact that China has lifted millions of people out of poverty, China’s improvement in energy and its mobile payment.
Q: You’ve done a lot of research in China’s rural economy. What experience can you draw from China’s poverty alleviation strategy, and can it be used in Italy?
A: I think what China has done to eradicate rural poverty is exceptional. In terms of adapting China’s experience to Italy, it’s a bit difficult, because we have urban poverty. We have about five million people living under the poverty line. They are urban people. What we need to do is to bring these people into the job market.
But there are many lessons to learn from China’s policies in rural areas. For example, how China controlled the urbanization of cities. In terms of the migration from rural to urban areas, its quantity has been optimized so that urban areas have gained from the migration. The study of China’s migration, which is internal migration, is interesting for us.
Q: Italy wants to strengthen cooperation with China in Africa. Why is that? And how do you plan to do it?
A: It’s very complex. We want to help the economic development in Africa. My view is that Italy, Europe and China can work together to stabilize the economic situation in Africa. There are many reasons for that. One is that I believe China has a very large market potential, and economic growth in Africa will be beneficial to Africa, European and Chinese companies. From the economic point of view, this is win-win for all three parties. So I think it is in the interest of all three parties to make sure Africa stabilizes.
We’ve already signed a memorandum of understanding with China on cooperation in third countries. The next stage is to identify the specific projects that Chinese and Italian companies can work together in Africa.
So the cooperation started from G to G (government to government), as our ministry signed the agreement with NDRC (the National Development and Reform Commission of China) in Beijing. Now we want to bring this cooperation down to B to B (business to business).
So we need to analyze the strategic projects we can work together. These projects range from construction, infrastructure development, agriculture, agricultural machinery and energy.