Italy and China want to revive the spirit of the ancient Silk Road by deepening their trade and investment ties, Chinese President Xi Jinping said on Friday during a trip to Rome that has raised eyebrows in Washington.

Xi is set to sign a deal on Saturday that will see Italy become the first of the Group of Seven major industrialised nations to join China’s giant “Belt and Road” infrastructure project which is inspired by the old trade routes that linked the two nations.

“We want to revitalise the ancient Silk Road in order to better share the fruits of humanity’s progress,” Xi said following talks with Italian President Sergio Mattarella.

“We want to strengthen the synergies between our respective development strategies to enhance cooperation in the infrastructure, port, logistics and maritime transport sectors in order to build a series of concrete projects along the Silk Road,” he added, speaking through a translator.

Besides the Belt and Road initiative, various deals worth up to 7 billion euros ($7.9 billion) are expected to be agreed in an array of sectors, including accords opening up the northern ports of Trieste and Genoa to Chinese containers.

In a sign of the improved ties, the Bank of China said on Friday that Italian state lender Cassa Depositi e Prestiti (CDP)would be allowed to sell so-called “Panda” bonds to investors in mainland China¬† another first for a G7 member.

Italy’s decision to get closer to Beijing has caused concerns among its Western allies — notably in Washington,where the White House National Security Council urged Rome not to give “legitimacy to China’s infrastructure vanity project”.($1 = 0.8849 euros)