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Italy is considering extending state protection against foreign ownership to the automotive and steel sectors, in a bid to shield businesses from Chinese interest, a government minister said.

Economic Development Minister Giancarlo Giorgetti, of the anti-migrant League party, told lawmakers in Rome that unfair competition by China -- with strong state subsidies normally unavailable to Italian and European companies -- has been underestimated. The result was many job losses and company closures in Europe, he said.

“Some areas like the automotive and steel sectors are particularly in need of supportive measures because of their strategic character, and being particularly exposed to such competition," Giorgetti said.

“In this regard, we are assessing the possibility of extending the remit of the Golden Power rule to sectors which are currently excluded, and which have clear significance in the national economic framework," he added.

The so-called Golden Power involves state measures to block or manage foreign ownership in businesses deemed strategic.

League leader Matteo Salvini called last month for the government to protect truck and bus business Iveco as a strategic asset, saying it would be a disaster for Italy if the company were to be sold to China FAW Group Co.

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