Chinese President Xi Jinping congratulated Italian Premier Matteo Renzi on his ambitious programme of institutional and economic reforms yesterday, while Italian businesses signed deals during the trade mission to China. The premier met Xi in the second day of his visit to China as part of an Asian tour aimed at boosting Italian trade and Italian sources described their meeting.
Renzi became the first Italian premier to pay an official visit to Vietnam on Monday and he will also take in Kazakhstan during the tour. Since his designetion, Renzi has launched an ambitious reform programme to overhaul Italy’s slow, costly political apparatus, save money and make passing legislation easier. The government has passed an 80-euro income-tax bonus for low earners and started to change labour-market regulations in a bid to combat unemployment, which has reached record levels of close to 13%, with over four in 10 under-25s jobless as the country struggles to recover from its longest postwar recession. Renzi’s executive also plans reforms to simplify Italy’s tax system, make the civil service more efficient and revamp the country’s snail-paced justice system.
Xi highlighted the importance of the partnership between Italy and China at yesterday’s meeting and said he was certain that Milan Expo 2015, which was recently hit by a corruption scandal, would be a huge success, the sources said. The Chinese president said he has visited several Italian cities, including Rome, Naples and Florence, in the past and added that Italy would be his top choice as a foreign holiday destination.
Renzi responded by saying how much Italy respected China. “We have to learn a lot from your capacity to plan and put those plans into action,” Renzi said, according to the sources.
Meanwhile, business relations between Italy and China are growing. Italian electricity giant Enel energy signed two deals with leading Chinese energy companies aimed at continuing cooperation and development during Renzi’s visit to Beijing. Enel, one of Italy’s biggest energy producers with an international reach, signed the memo of understanding with China Huaneng Group and the State-owned China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) following a business forum in Beijing. Italian bank Intesa Sanpaolo also signed an agreement yesterday with the Agricultural Development Bank of China on “cooperation that will promote relations between Italy and China in the agricultural sector, in view of Expo 2015″.