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EU bailout fund chief says 'no special deal' with China

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2011-10-28

Klaus Regling, head of the European bailout fund, travelled to Beijing Friday for talks with China's finance officials. He said after his visit that "there is no special deal" with China, despite hopes that China would pitch in to the fund.

AFP - The head of the European bail-out fund dampened hopes Friday that China Would come to a debt-stricken EU's rescue, but left the door open for a deal with the world's second-biggest economy.

"There is no special deal" with China, Klaus Regling said after travelling to Beijing for talks with China's central bank and finance ministry, a day after European leaders reached a last-ditch agreement to tackle the crisis on Thursday.

Regling's visit comes amid intense speculation that China could come to Europe's rescue by investing some of its substantial foreign exchange reserves in the bail-out fund.

Hours after Thursday's deal was struck, French President Nicolas Sarkozy telephoned China's President Hu Jintao, later giving a television interview in which he defended the idea of asking China to bail out Europe.

"If the Chinese, who have 60 percent of global reserves, decide to invest in the euro instead of the dollar, why refuse?" said the French president.

Regling, chief executive of the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF), insisted the timing of his visit was not significant, calling the talks "regular consultations" on China's investment in European bonds.

But he said the EFSF was looking at new ways to secure new investment, speaking after EU leaders announced measures including quadrupling the firepower of the fund to one trillion euros ($1.4 trillion).

"So far the only way we asked for investors to participate (in the bail-out fund) was by buying bonds. There was no other instrument available so far," Regling told a media briefing.

"Now, we may have new instruments... and we will see who participates in these instruments."

China, which has 3.2 trillion dollars in foreign exchange reserves, was "interested in funding attractive, solid, safe investment opportunities," Regling added.

His comments came as China's vice finance minister welcomed an EU agreement on measures to address the debt crisis and said the country was still considering whether to invest in the bailout fund.

Zhu Guangyao said China welcomed the agreements reached at a European summit Thursday, Dow Jones Newswires reported.

After 10 hours of tense talks in Brussels, Europe's leaders on Thursday thrashed out a deal aimed at providing new funds to Greece in a bid to stop the region's crippling debt troubles sparking another global financial meltdown.

Regling will travel to Tokyo at the weekend and on Friday Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda reiterated his country's readiness to help stabilise the eurozone, but also gave no details of any possible contribution.

China has already invested significant sums in European bonds and has repeatedly called on Europe to address its debt crisis, saying a failure to act risks dragging the world back into recession.

Chinese state media have reported that the country is willing to contribute to the EFSF, but there has been no official confirmation and Beijing has given little indication of how it might be prepared to help.

On Thursday, Beijing cautiously welcomed the European deal and reiterated China's "faith in the EU and the eurozone economy".

But bailing out developed countries would be a hard sell for the Communist leaders of a country where soaring housing and food costs are hurting millions of poor households and many small exporters are struggling to pay their bills.

"Many can't understand why China should extend a helping hand to Europe," the Global Times daily said in an editorial on Friday, referring to a credit crunch that has hit businesses in the eastern city.

China's state Xinhua news agency said Thursday that Europe needed to take responsibility for the crisis, and not rely on "good Samaritans" to rescue the continent.

IHS Global Insight analyst Ren Xianfang said China was likely to attach a number of conditions to any investment, such as greater market access in Europe and silence on the strength of the yuan, which critics argue is undervalued.

"China wants to get what it wants if it is to play a role in this," Ren told AFP.

 

Date created : 2011-10-28

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