Shanghai - Genoa is considered a benchmark by all. Even for the Chinese. But, in terms of investments, Beijing has its sights set on Trieste. Zeno D’Agostino is the man for the Italian leg of the New Silk Road. He heads up that Adriatic port, as well as the association of Italian ports: “That’s why I can say that there are opportunities for everyone; even Italy’s southern ports.”
But it looks like Shanghai is just interested in Trieste...
“That’s not true. Of course we’re continually negotiating and receiving requests, but it’s the whole Italian port system that is involved.”
Even the South?
“Look, the Chinese made a mistake when they acquired the port of Piraeus. They’ve realized this and are now trying to remedy. This will make Italy stronger, even in terms of credibility.”
So even the Chinese get it wrong?
“They thought that by having a foothold in Greece the European markets would be within easy reach by rail. That’s not what’s happened, and it’s a good thing for us. This is why they’re looking to invest in Italy.”
Until today, however, there have been no major moves ...
“In the coming months there will be changes... By the end of the year, with several negotiations concluded, the picture will be different, very different.”
And the ports in the South?
“The Chinese are very interested in the Mediterranean area. Our ports are in a better position than Piraeus, and can offer more. If the geopolitical situation were also to improve, we would have a very positive scenario. Maybe we could go back to when the Mediterranean was a vast area of free trade. It was a good concept. Italy, that way would fulfil its role of not just being a logistic platform for Central Europe, but also a key player for southern Europe and North Africa.”
Let’s return to the investments; are we risking a sell-off of Italian companies or assets?
“No. Our attitude is very different; we have continuous requests from Chinese investors. They’re looking to buy, to become partners or shareholders. But we’re against any sell-offs, that’s they are for countries that are at risk of defaulting. And, fortunately, we’re not.”
But what do we offer Chinese investors?
“A high-value logistic system. We are evolving; we’re no longer limited to offering dockside services, but rather a complete logistic system. And this is something that China appreciates. We offer more than simple access to the sea: consider our ability to achieve full operational system capacity, across the board. And we’re not just talking infrastructure, but opportunities and favourable conditions. On that matter, the Special Economic Zones are a great trump card that we need to play.”