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China confident in Italy economy, stresses reforms

Rome (AFP): China’s Prime Minister Wen Jiabao said Saturday Italy could return to economic growth as long as it implements reforms, speaking at a Beijing meeting with Italian counterpart Mario Monti.

“The Italian economy has solid foundations and potential. It can deal with the unfavourable international context and, thanks to the implementation of reforms, boost growth,” Wen said.

“Italy considers China as a strategic partner,” Monti said. “We can find new forms of cooperation, not only in our bilateral relations but also in multilateral relations.”

The widely-respected technocrat, who replaced Silvio Berlusconi as head of the eurozone’s third largest economy, was visiting China as Europe continues to stagger under the weight of runaway sovereign debt, led by Greece.

Italy alone needs some 750 billion euros to finance its debt, while Spain requires around 370 billion euros over the next three years.

“The Chinese government has encouraged its national businesses to increase their investments in Italy and it hopes that Italy will push the European Union to create a more open investment climate,” Wen said.

China has been asking for a long time that it be recognised as a market economy by the EU — this status would offer better guarantees of access to Chinese products on the European market.

Monti, a former European commissioner, is on a trip which has taken him to Japan and South Korea as he aims to get recession-struck Italy growing again after years of lagging behind its eurozone peers.

In Beijing, he said he wanted to generate new enthusiasm for his country, presenting a “new” Italy that is less bureaucratic and more open to foreign investment.

“My expectation was first of all to explain and to present (the new Italy) and from the reactions that we got I must say that is going in a satisfactory manner,” said Monti.

Italy “wants to become and is becoming more disciplined, more deeply market economy-oriented and more business-friendly and a country firmly rooted in the EU.”

He accepted there was a lot of work to be done, with the eurozone crisis not over, but added that “since the beginning of the Greek crisis, a huge progress has been achieved.”

Published Date: Sunday, April 1st, 2012 | 03:46 PM

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