Exclusive: China to extend economic diplomacy to EU infrastructure fund

Sun Jun 14, 2015 7:37am EDT
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By Robin Emmott and Paul Taylor

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - China will pledge a multi-billion dollar investment in Europe's new infrastructure fund at a summit on June 29 in Brussels, according to a draft communique seen by Reuters - Beijing's latest round of chequebook diplomacy to win greater influence.

While the exact amount is still to be decided, the pledge will mark the latest step in China's efforts to shape global economic governance at the expense of the United States, and follows major EU governments' decision to join the Chinese-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) in defiance of Washington.

It is expected to come with a request for return investment in China's westward infrastructure drive - the "One Belt, One Road" initiative - constructing major energy and communications links across Central, West and South Asia to as far as Greece.

"China announced that it would make (X amount) available for co-financing strategic investment of common interest across the EU," the draft final statement says, adding that agreements will be finalised at another meeting in September.

An EU diplomat said the Chinese contribution was likely to be "in the billions".

EU and Chinese officials have told Reuters that Chinese banks are looking mainly at telecoms and technology projects.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, who will attend the summit in Brussels, will agree with EU leaders that the 315 billion euro ($354.94 billion) fund will "create opportunities for China to invest in the EU, in particular in infrastructure and innovation sectors".

If sealed, the deal will be a success for European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, who faced scepticism last year when he proposed the European Fund for Strategic Investment (EFSI), because EU governments are putting in little seed money.   Continued...

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang delivers a speech with Chile's President Michelle Bachelet (not pictured) during an opening ceremony of a Chile-China economic forum in Santiago city, May 26, 2015. REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado