The Yomiuri Shimbun Ahead of the Group of 20 summit, The Yomiuri Shimbun interviewed Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte through a written question format.
The Yomiuri Shimbun: The US and China will come under pressure to ease trade tensions. Do you think the G20 meeting will facilitate an agreement or commitments on combating protectionism?
Conte: We really hope that the Osaka Summit will succeed in making concrete progress on trade, reducing tensions that are detrimental for everyone and reaffirming international trade as an engine of growth and progress. We are fully aware of the complexity of the issues in front of us, but we are optimistic that the G20 members can accomplish meaningful results by working together in a spirit of true partnership. We cannot simply stop globalization; but we do need to succeed in its management.
In fact, Italy firmly believes that a fair and truly effective multilateralism is the only way to defend the interests of the whole international community. In line with this principle, we are against any form of protectionism and unfair commercial practices. We also attach the highest importance to the WTO reform process, as reiterated last year at the Buenos Aires Summit: in a moment of increasing global tensions, a multilateral approach pivoted on the WTO is the only way to arbitrate between the interests of all involved parties.
Italy, together with our European partners, is ready to do its part in the incoming Summit and send a strong message on our determination to work together to make the multilateral system more capable to tackle today’s challenges.
Q: What is your vision on how to strengthen the diplomatic relationship between Italy and Japan, especially in relation to the Free and Open Indo-Pacific vision proposed by Prime Minister Abe?
A: The relations between Italy and Japan are excellent. Before the Osaka Summit, I already met Prime Minister Abe twice in the last eight months. Prime Minister Abe’s visit to Italy last April was a real success and confirmed the determination of our two Governments to further strengthen our bilateral cooperation. With Prime Minister Abe we also agreed on the importance of reinforcing our economic cooperation, also thanks to the opportunities offered by the EPA Agreement with the European Union.
Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Enzo Moavero Milanesi, paid a very fruitful visit to Japan at the beginning of June. The consultation mechanism between our Ministries of Foreign Affairs is an important tool to promote the political dialogue on bilateral, regional and global issues of common interest.
In order to make our relationship express its full potential, it is key to bridge the infrastructure gap between Asia and Europe. We therefore look with great interest at the Free and Open Indo-Pacific vision proposed by Japan’s Prime Minister Abe. This vision is founded on the development of quality infrastructures, that should be sustainable and in line with the expectations, needs and development priorities of all the Countries involved. We will be happy to work with Japan within the framework of this initiative and to begin to identify concrete projects of collaboration in Asia, Europe and other geographical areas.
Q: Some EU countries are skeptical about China’s Belt and Road Initiative. What is your counterargument?
A: Europe and Asia account for over 60% of the world GDP and for 70% of the global population. The annual trade between the two Continents is more than 1.5 trillion Euro. The improvement of connectivity between the two regions is therefore imperative for the further growth of our economies to the benefit of all our citizens. This has also been recognized by the European Union in adopting the EU connectivity strategy.
The MoU signed by Italy for the cooperation with China in the BRI framework and my participation to the second Belt and Road Forum in Beijing correspond to these objectives. And they are also pursuing the goal of a more balanced commercial and economic relationship between Italy and China.
However, we are convinced that connectivity must be implemented in an open and inclusive way, complying with the international standards and the development priorities of individual Countries. It must also respect the principles of transparency, inclusiveness, fiscal and environmental sustainability and level playing field. Therefore, we have worked hard to include these principles in the MoU we signed with China and in the joint statement adopted by the Heads of State and Government at the Second Belt and Road Forum — and we reaffirm them in all the occasions of political dialogue with our Chinese counterparts.
Moreover, our constructive dialogue with Beijing on this issue does not preclude other forms of cooperation aiming at strengthening commercial and economic ties between Europe and Asia. We believe in fact that all connectivity initiatives between the two Continents must be complementary, supportive and mutually reinforcing.
Q: In a letter, you warned that the austerity policies imposed by Brussels had brought no benefits to some countries. Please clarify your concern about it.
A: First of all, let me point out that in the letter I clearly assured that Italy intends to be compliant with the European rules, as long as they are in full force. The Italian Minister of Finance is carrying out the necessary technical dialogue with the European Commission, in order to provide clear evidence and set out our reasons to avoid a Council decision on the opening of the excessive deficit procedure.
But in my letter I have also made a broader political remark. At the beginning of a new European legislature, it is urgent to deal with the structural limitations of the European project, in order to prevent a certain disaffection of our citizens vis-a-vis the European institutions from degenerating into social and political instability. We must redesign the economic and social governance rules to ensure an effective and adequate balance between stability and growth, and between risk reduction and risk sharing, thus paving the way to stronger cohesion in our societies.
Italy is ready to do its part to build a Europe closer to its citizens: stronger, more supportive, more equal. As a founding member of the European Union, Italy intends to nourish the European project with new life.
Q: The UNHCR is calling on the Italian government to revise its new security decree. What is your counterargument? Will you express your concerns on migrant issues during the G20 meeting in Japan?
A: We believe that international cooperation is key to tackle global challenges, such as migration. Increasing the collaboration at the G20 level could also be helpful: for this reason, we agreed to continue discussions with our G20 partners in support of a global approach to a transnational and structural phenomenon. In the European context, Italy has promoted an effective management of migration through a multi-level approach focusing, first of all, on primary movements. We are also convinced of the importance of a broad political and financial investment in the cooperation with origin and transit Countries, in order to tackle the root causes of migration.Speech