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Italy Wants Closer Economic Ties with China
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Italian Premier Romano Prodi unveiled in Rome on Thursday plans to boost Italian economic and trade ties with China, saying that he wanted Italy to become "the door to the East."


Prodi, who is traveling to China next week at the head of a major delegation of Italian political and business officials, said that "China is already a friend of ours but we want it to become even more so."


Speaking at a press conference in which he gave details of the September 13 to Sept. 18 trip, the leader said that "this visit is particularly important."


"Italy is going to China with new economic, political and cultural strategies. This is the biggest institutional and business mission ever organized (by Italy) to China. It represents an opportunity for Italy and Europe."


Prodi will be accompanied by four ministers, one junior minister and three undersecretaries plus representatives of 12 of Italy's 20 regions and top members of the powerful industrial employers' federation Confindustria, the Italian Foreign Trade Institute and the Italian Banking Association.


Prodi will hold talks with President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao in Beijing.


After that, he will visit four cities that are key to China's economic engine: Nanjing, Guangzhou, Shanghai and Tianjin.


One of Prodi's most important stops will be in Guangzhou, where he and Foreign Trade Minister Emma Bonino will open the city's international fair of small to medium-sized firms.


More than 700 Italian firms will be attending the fair.


Meanwhile, Italian auto giant Fiat will cement a deal with China's Saic Motor Corporation in Shanghai.


Minister Bonino underscored on Thursday that Italian exports to China had jumped 18.6 percent over the past year with textiles and machinery leading the upwards trend.


She noted that a total of 1,428 Italian firms were currently present in China, more than 80 percent of which were large-sized companies.


(Xinhua News Agency September 8, 2006)

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