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Saturday, 18 February 2012

China's Helping Hand for Europe

Made In China by CHOW HOW BAN

China has promised to help the EU deal with its debt problems through the stability facilities, but it should not be misread as a pledge to buy more European government bonds.

Sino-EU ties: Chinese vice-premier Li Keqiang (right) talking to Barroso (left) and Van Rompuy during their meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Wednesday. — AFP

EUROPE has played a big role in China’s economic successes throughout the past three decades. That was the main tone the European Union (EU) brought to Beijing for the China-EU Summit on Tuesday.

And China’s response was that it would offer the EU more help to overcome the eurozone sovereign debt crisis – an assurance from the economic powerhouse that the EU pretty much hoped for.

The friendly exchanges between the Chinese and EU leaders laid the foundation for the success of the summit. Sino-EU trade relations have continued to thrive amid the debt crisis in Europe, with trade volume surpassing €460bil (RM1.83 trillion) last year. Europe is China’s biggest export destination.

 “Over the past decades, China has become an even greater force in regional and global affairs and its economic and social development has been immense,” European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso said after the summit attended by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, his Cabinet members and European Council president Herman Van Rompuy.

“Europe can only rejoice at this success. I believe that Europe can legitimately claim some parts of the success because China’s economy has greatly benefited from Europe’s open policies and open markets.

“As Europe and China are inter-connected and inter-dependent, we should work even more closely on different fronts to deepen our relations.”

He assured the Chinese leaders that the EU was doing what it takes to restore the confidence of investors and international stakeholders and its partners amid the crisis.

Wen said China was ready to help Europe deal with its debt problems but the EU would have to take its own initiatives as well as address the issues.

“China’s willingness to support the EU in dealing with its debt crisis is sincere and resolute. China will continue to join hands with the EU for mutual benefit despite the fast-changing global economic situation,” he said.

Last week, Wen had told German Chancellor Angela Merkel at a meeting during her official visit to China that China would consider getting more involved in solving the debt woes in Europe, especially through the European Stability Mechanism and European Financial Stability Facility.

“Resolving the debt crisis relies fundamentally on the efforts made by the EU itself.

“We expect the debt-stricken nations, according to their own situations, to strengthen fiscal consolidation, reduce their deficits and lower their debt risks,” he said.

However, analysts said that Wen’s promise to help the EU deal with its debt problems through the stability facilities should not be misread as China’s intention to buy more European government bonds.

Speaking at a forum on Monday, Lou Jiwei, chairman of China Investment Corporation (CIC), a sovereign wealth fund tasked with managing China’s foreign exchange reserves of US$3.2 trillion (RM9.7 trillion), said Merkel expressed her hope that long-term investors like CIC would buy German, French, Italian and Spanish debts.

“Some people think that there have been some positive improvements in the eurozone debt crisis in the short-term as the EU came up with some fiscal policies. But they have not got to the root of the problem and we should be able to see the effects in June or July,” he said.

He said it would be more likely for investors to invest in infrastructure and industrial projects, which would help in the economic recovery of the European nations.

In its editorial, People’s Daily said the eurozone debt crisis stemmed from the zone’s monetary and financial systems and its flaws in economic governance and policy-making mechanism.

“The unification of the euro currency has failed to promote fiscal unification because the EU member states are reluctant to give up their control over tax revenues,” it said.

“EU politicians may have the determination to safeguard the eurozone but they do not have fiscal resources which can be channelled in a unified way to troubled nations and do not have a proper mechanism to solve the debt issue. This has resulted in a worsening of the crisis.”

During its short trip to China, besides having deeper exchanges of views on EU-China relations with the Chinese leaders, the EU delegation was also on a mission to convince Chinese scholars and investors that Europe was on the right track to come through the crisis.

“Incomplete governance and surveillance in the euro area have caused imbalances and divergences in competitiveness. The sovereign debt crisis has been a wake-up call,” Barroso said.

“But the EU has acted decisively to tackle the crisis, strengthen economic governance, stabilise public finances and implement structural reforms such as the European Stability Mechanism and European Financial Stability Facility with a combined fund of €500bil (RM1.99 trillion) as financial aid for some member states.

“Other measures aimed at creating more jobs and ensuring sustainable growth include the EU2020 Strategy, a blueprint which will get the economy back on track over the next eight years with education, research and innovation as key drivers.

“In my view, what Europe has been doing, particularly during the most recent period, constitutes a basis for investors to regain confidence in Europe.”

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