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Italy is mulling leaving China’s Belt and Road Initiative, almost four years after it controversially became the only Group of Seven country to join it, Bloomberg reported.

Defense Minister Guido Crosetto, a close ally of Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, said in an interview Sunday that Italy must “get out” of the China pact “without creating a disaster.”

Italy was harshly criticized by France, Germany, and other countries when it signed up to Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s flagship investment initiative in 2019. Now, the alliance is due to renew automatically at the end of the year unless Italy abandons it.

Bloomberg reported that Italian officials have reassured the US that Rome will exit the pact, but Meloni refrained from any public announcement in a visit to the US earlier this month.

“Our national interest means also having a dialog with Beijing and one can have good trade relations independently from the Belt and Road,” Meloni said in an interview after returning from Washington. “The issue is finding the right balance.”

Meloni now faces the challenge of disentangling herself from an alliance that’s brought little economic advantage, without sparking a diplomatic crisis with Beijing.

Signing up to the pact “was a reckless and improvised action by Giuseppe Conte’s government,” Crosetto said. “We just exported some oranges to China … while they have tripled exports to Italy in three years.”

Meanwhile, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said Sunday during a visit to China that he had pressed Chinese leaders to further open their markets to foreign companies, amid tension over Beijing’s surging trade surpluses, the Associated Press reported.

At the same time, he added that while France, Germany, the US and other Western economies are attempting to “de-risk” – become more independent from China economically – economic “decoupling” from China is impossible, an “illusion.”

“There is no possibility of having any kind of decoupling between the American, European and Chinese economies,” he said.

China has lashed out at Western efforts to de-risk, with Premier Li Qiang last month calling the concept a “false proposition.”

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