File photo. Photograph:( Reuters )
China's multi-billion dollar 'One Belt and Road initiative' aims to link the country by sea and land with southeast and central Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa, through an infrastructure network.
Italy has planned to sign a memorandum of understanding to become part of China's Belt and Road Initiative, the Financial Times reported on Tuesday.
"The negotiation is not over yet, but it is possible that it will be concluded in time for [Xi's] visit," the newspaper reported quoting Michele Geraci, the undersecretary in the Italian economic development ministry.
China's multi-billion dollar 'One Belt and Road initiative' aims to link the country by sea and land with southeast and central Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa, through an infrastructure network on the lines of the old Silk Road.
The project was announced country's President Xi Jinping in 2013 during his official visit to Indonesia and Kazakhstan.
Aside from boosting trade and investment, Xi aims to boost exchanges in areas such as science, technology, culture and education.
It has dispersed tens of billions of dollars in loans, often to highly indebted countries, sparking criticism of Beijing for everything from "debt entrapment" to excluding local labour from projects funded by the plan.
Last year in October, World Bank acknowledge that "Belt and Road Initiative" building push may create debt risks but said that it is also responding to major infrastructure gaps in Asia and could boost global trade.
"There are huge opportunities: improved infrastructure means more trade, more investments, higher growth, bringing in landlocked regions," said Caroline Freund, the Bank's director of trade, regional integration and investment climate in a meeting in Mali
"But there are challenges as well... There are environmental and social risks, there are issues to do with public procurement, and sustaining public debt becomes an issue because these projects are expensive," she added.
The World Bank estimates that BRI-funded infrastructure could boost trade among countries involved by 3.6 per cent, and global trade some 2.4 per cent.
And officials say it is offering to fund in areas where it is sorely needed.
(With inputs from news agencies)