IT’S NOT JUST a case of investing in ports and the rail network. According to Riccardo Fuochi, a member of Assologistica’s board of directors, the development of the Silk Road “will be a much broader project that will bring benefits to all the economies of the countries concerned.” The figures for One Belt One Road, the Chinese government’s new Silk Road project, include 60 countries and 900 new infrastructure projects with an investment cost of almost a trillion. Let us consider the economic power of the People’s Republic of China: last year Chinese GDP grew by 6.9%, reaching $13 trillion, while the total volume of import-export was equal to $4.28 billion, of which $2.36 billion were in exports and $1.92 billion in imports. Italy plays a significant role in this dynamic: in 2017, Italy-China trade exceeded one billion dollars, with a growth of about 25% compared to the previous year. Running parallel to these commercial exchanges, Chinese foreign investment also grew, reaching $120 billion last year, while foreign investment in China reached $135 billion. Chinese trade with the 60 countries involved in the new Silk Road, reached $780 billion in 2017, and in those same countries China has already invested $50 billion in new construction projects, which will create 180,000 jobs. Once connected to Europe, Beijing’s great project could extend as far as South America. The dialogue between South America and China will be based on trade. And it will be based on rather simple issues, because Latin America has a surplus in the food industry that could be the most suitable currency to “repay” Chinese investments. In exchange, China promises money for infrastructure, but that is not all: Beijing wants to come in with its own technological products and conquer new markets for its manufacturing industry.
The new development possibilities for the Italian economy are clear. Are there any unknowns?
Fuochi explained, “The most important aspect is participation in the numerous projects that are developing inside the Silk Road. China has planned a great number of investments, especially in infrastructure, worth several billion dollars, and to stay out of this great development opportunity for freight, but also passenger movement, would mean losing a unique opportunity.”
Is our country making the right moves?
“Several companies and associations are doing quite well. At the level of government, something has already been done but in such situations it is essential to act together as a system: the world of industry and the governmental institutions together. In the latter respect we certainly have a lot to improve upon.”
Genoa and Trieste are the Italian ports that the Chinese government considers strategic. Does the Silk Road exclude Italy’s other ports?
“Absolutely not, quite the contrary. Genoa and Trieste will certainly play a central role for the new traffic, but the growth opportunities will affect all of Italy’s ports, including those in the South, which will be able to benefit from the increase in cargo handling and play an important role because of the new routes that will be opening up.”
Infrastructure development, new business opportunities, expanding the logistical network and increasing the movement of goods between Asia and Europe. What else should we expect from it?
“Little is said about it, but tourism is one of the sectors that will receive the greatest benefits from the Silk Road investments. Let us keep in mind that 50% of the world’s population lives in the countries involved, and with the planned investments it will be easier for them to travel.”