China has said it wants more clarity before investing in an EU bailout fund, as the head of the scheme held talks in Beijing to try to win the help of the world’s second-largest economy.
Friday’s announcement came after earlier expectations for a strong commitment from Beijing over Europe’s debt crisis.
The Financial Times, a UK newspaper, had quoted a source saying China could inject more than $100bn to help bail the EU out, ahead of the visit to Beijing by Klaus Regling, the head of the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF).
But publicly, Beijing has been noncommittal and Chinese state media said Europe must take responsibility for the crisis and not rely on “good Samaritans” to save the continent from its fiscal woes.
“If the Chinese, who have 60 per cent of global reserves, decide to invest in the euro instead of the dollar, why refuse?”
Regling said Europe was trying to come up with new mechanisms for investment in the EFSF in a bid to restore market confidence in the debt-laden region.
But China’s vice finance minister said his country would wait for more details before committing to invest in the fund.
“We need to wait for the technicalities to be clear and also to carry out serious studies before we can decide on investment,” said Zhu Guangyao.
Ren Xianfang, an IHS Global Insight analyst, 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.
There have been calls from Europe for China and other developing economies to invest in the bailout fund, with intense speculation that Beijing will agree to deploy some of its huge foreign-exchange reserves.
But bailing out developed European 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 exporters are struggling.
Regling, in China a day after Europe reached a last-ditch agreement to tackle the region’s worst crisis in decades, said there was no prospect of reaching a deal during his talks with China’s central bank and finance ministry.
But he said the EFSF was looking at new ways to secure additional investment following the decision to boost the fund’s resources to $1.4 trillion.
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 per cent of global reserves, decide to invest in the euro instead of the dollar, why refuse?” said Sarkozy.
Regling said he would discuss with China and other investors how to structure a special purpose investment vehicle and explore the possibility of linking it to the International Monetary Fund.
China, which has $3.2 trillion in foreign exchange reserves, was “interested in finding attractive, solid, safe investment opportunities,” he told a media briefing.
The EFSF was set up in May 2010 and is designed to provide financial assistance to European economies at risk of default, such as Greece, Ireland and Portugal.