kenya railways
A train launched to operate on the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) line constructed by the China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) and financed by the Chinese government arrives at the Nairobi Terminus on the outskirts of Kenya's capital Wednesday.
Italy is planning to officially announce its support for China's Belt and Road Initiative this month, the Financial Times reported Wednesday. It would be the first endorsement by a G-7 nation, the report pointed out.

Chinese President Xi Jinping's regional infrastructure investment program is widely seen as Beijing's attempt to expand its influence globally through the construction of a network of land and maritime routes across Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Europe.

Critics say that through the project, China forces developing nations to take on high debt burdens while benefiting Chinese companies which are often state-owned.

Comment: China forces no one to participate, that's how the US/World bank/IMF does business.

In the last few months, Malaysia, Pakistan, Myanmar, Bangladesh and Sierra Leone have either canceled or stepped back from their prior commitments to Belt and Road projects.

Comment: If it was the US who they were doing business with, the above countries would soon be visited with 'democratic interventions' to persuade them to rethink their position.

In any event, this 'project' is happening with or without their support. The sheer gravity of China just being China - even without any explicit political framework - will have everyone, sooner or later, involved in it to one extent or another.

Italy's undersecretary in the economic development ministry, Michele Geraci, told the Financial Times his country is in negotiations to sign a memorandum of understanding in support of the program. The plan is to sign in time for Xi's visit by the end of March, Geraci said in the article.

"We want to make sure that 'Made in Italy' products can have more success in terms of export volume to China,which is the fastest-growing market in the world," he added in the report.

Such public support would come at a critical time in China's relations with the U.S. and the European Union, of which Italy is a founding member.

Xi is expected to meet with U.S. President Donald Trump by the end of March to clinch a deal to end their trade impasse. This week, the EU Council adopted its first-ever framework of rules on foreign direct investment, amid a rise of Chinese investments in the region and concerns about protection of key technologies.

Garrett Marquis, White House National Security Council spokesperson, told the FT that the U.S. is skeptical of the benefits to Italy from an endorsement of the Chinese initiative, and urged allies and partners to increase the pressure on Beijing to align its global investments with international practices.

Comment: Specifically, he said:
"We are skeptical that the Italian government's endorsement will bring any sustained economic benefits to the Italian people, and it may end up harming Italy's global reputation in the long run. "

A representative from the Italian embassy in Beijing was not immediately available for comment when contacted by CNBC.