A quite rough Silk Road…
These are no longer Marco Polo's times: opportunities and difficulties related to the Chinese Belt & Road Initiative outlined in a debate at the International Propeller Club Port of Venice
The round table held at the International Propeller Club Port of Venice, at the Venice Passenger Terminal, attended also by the representatives of the Clubs of Ravenna, Mantova, Monfalcone and Trieste was entitled “Ports and Enterprises within the Gulf of Venice in the One Belt Road: what are the opportunities for Northern Eastern Italy?”
“Cross-cultural dialogue and legislative harmony should be a priority for every economic/commercial agreement between the 68 Countries within the Belt & Road Initiative (BRI)”, Venice Chapter President Massimo Bernardo pointed out. “One of the main questions related to the Chinese project concerns the essential dialogue between different cultures. Said cultures are indeed connected in the same belt, but only by mere economic-financial interests managed from an accounting point of view. There is still a long way to go along the virtual road connecting the world's East and West to achieve the cultural fusion on which a real economic growth is based and to reach the only common objective, i.e. more well-being (not only economical, but above all social) for everyone”.
“The BRI or Silk Road Initiative is constantly evolving. Besides the 6 corridors suggested by Xijinping in 2013, new initiatives are being carried out also in Countries geographically outside the Silk Road”, Italy-Hong Kong Association and Propeller Port of Milan President Riccardo Fuochi explained.
“The investments in Africa, South America and Australia are a proof of the global nature of this initiative. According to the Asian Development Bank, 45 Asian countries should invest 26,000 billion dollars by 2030 to create infrastructures, especially in the energy and logistics sectors”.
Therefore, there is room for Italian companies in every sector: industry, trade, logistics, constructions, tourism, professional services.
Italy is one of the founding members of the AIIB, with a financial capital exceeding 100 billion dollars. Since it is not a Chinese bank, the AIIB can be a point of reference for Italian companies working in the relevant geographical areas, Fuochi added. At the end of May, the latter will organize an event in Lugano focusing on territorial market and entitled “Opportunities for Switzerland from the New Silk Road’. Among the main speakers, there will be Marco Borradori (Mayor of Lugano), Marina Bottinelli (Italian Chamber of Commerce for Switzerland), William Chui (Europe Hong Kong Trade Development Council), Jinny Yan (China Markets Strategy ICBC Standard Bank), Mario Tettamanti (Linktobeijing Consulting Partnership Enterprise), Stefano De Paoli (Invest Hong Kong), Marco Marazzi (Easternational).
Northern Eastern Italian ports, being at the centre of the most important manufacturing areas in Italy, can become the reference terminals for the New Silk Road.
“Due to the increases in traffic in the Suez Canal (+11% in 2017) and in naval transit (+24% from 2012 to 2016), and to the recovery of some Countries within the MENA (Middle East North Africa) Area, the Mediterranean is achieving centrality within the worldwide maritime sector”, Maritime and Mediterranean Economy Office – SRM (Study and Research for Southern Italy) Manager Alessandro Panaro observed. “Therefore, the fact that China is making significant investments in Mediterranean terminals and ports should make us focus on the opportunities that this will provide to our port systems. However, we have to prove that our logistics and maritime system is efficient, strong and united”.
When asked about the strategies of the Venetian industrialists concerning the BRI by the Club's President, Venice-Rovigo Confindustria President Vincenzo Marinese replied: “It is not a question of money, market or industrial network. It is up to us to seize this opportunity, and we are determined to give our contribution”.
Marinese concluded by emphasising the complementarity between the ports of Venice and Trieste, and the need to draw up a business plan providing for free zones, special economic zones with tax incentives, relocation of the manufacturing industry and exploitation of exports.
Northern Adriatic (Venice) Port Authority President Pino Musolino pointed out that “in light of the opportunities and difficulties related to the Silk Road, we need to provide clear European rules, equipping our ports and strengthening the cooperation within the N.A.P.A. (North Adriatic Port Association) with suitable infrastructures and facilities to host new maritime lines, also for large vessels. Not only full containerships, but also units for installations and general cargo as Venice is one of the most important Adriatic ports for these traffics”.
In turn, North Eastern (Trieste) Port Authority President Mario Sommariva focused on the need of a closer cooperation between the ports of Venice and Trieste, investing in infrastructure and logistics development.
Meanwhile, on May the 12th the first Chinese train travelling on the new transcontinental infrastructure will reach Antwerp.